I arrived in Edoras in Rohan in 1996. There were a couple of guys working there already. They had a big fight that Spring. I didn't know much about it. There was some girl named Finuel who had accepted Jesus and wanted to follow Him as Lord and Saviour. The rub came in that her parents found out about it and refused to let her meet with any foreigner or study the Bible. Young Short Term guy said forget the parents meet in secret and teach her anyway. The Team Leader said no. Finuel's defining characteristic was rebelion. If Jesus had made a difference in her life then we dare not encourage her to continue to be rebellious. I didn't know her or what to think so I did something truly remarkable. I kept my mouth shut.
Young Short Term guy left after a few months. Spring turned into a blisteringly hot summer. 115 or so in the shade, and precious little of that. There was only one building in town that had air conditioning and it was a fancy hotel built by Southrons and then abandoned. The local authorities picked it up and it was a decent place to hang out. It was cool and quiet. I found a guy who worked there and we did language lessons a few times a week. Yes, in spite of all appearances I am not a complete fool.
One day as I was standing in the hotel lobby waiting for my friend to come in, a beautiful woman came up to me and started talking to me. I was concerned for two reasons. One we were in a hotel and a strange beautiful woman that I had never seen was suddenly talking to me. I was concerned what my friend would think if he walked up just then. Secondly, the first thing out of her mouth was, 'Do you ever feel that God has left you?' Rohan is not like Gondor, where I live now. They are very hostile to any display of any faith. So, I said something insightful like, 'I guess maybe.' Then as she began to pour out her troubles I suddenly realized that this must be Finuel. I didn't know her but since there were only four expatriot families in town (Edoras was around 600,000 folks) she could easily guess who I was. My brain kicked in then. I listened to the Holy Spirit. Spoke words of encouragement and even got to pray for her before my friend showed up. I saw her one time more before I left Rohan the next year.
So, what happened? Well, her parents were astounded at her transformation. She was obedient and respectful. After a year they allowed her to study the Word and meet with a few Christian women. Much later some in her family came to faith also. A house church was started. Another house church. Then she got married to a Christian man and they felt called to go to Mordor. I have never heard if they made it there or not. But I am sure that where ever they are they are bold witnesses for Jesus in their community. In fact, I heard the husband was too bold a time or three and has been in jail.
My point? Well, after this I became convinced that we must respect the family authority lines as we share the Message. Our team has slogans like, 'We will only disciple someone in their parent's living room.' That is not literally true but figuratively true. Of course, principles can go wrong. We follow a living God and he wants us dependant on Him and not a list of principles that make seeking His ways obsolete.
Two years ago a young girl approached one of the ladies on our team and asked how to be saved. We went to the mother (father was dead) and then the grandfather out in the village. She said yes, he said no. We didn't go forward with her. We took our time and worked with mom and grandfather for months trying to build up trust and work our way into the family lines. Then Summer came around. She went out on a paddle boat on a small lake in the city and she drown. We determined several things from all this. One, people are more important than principles. If the King was telling us to work with her then we do not need anyone elses permission. Two, time is short. Jesus is coming soon. But sooner than that many are going up to see Him. They are not ready. We have not told them the truth. We have not loved them deeply. I don't work myself into a big guilt trip over this. The Judge is Just. I trust in that. But if he has given me breath to breathe truth today then I had better be breathing it. If I have the strength to serve today then I had better be serving.
I believe in family evangelism not because it is a neat strategy. I believe in it because the King created the family and we can not be doing His will and violate His creation. But the big secret to obedience is not a clever strategy. It is a determination to worship the King with our whole life every minute of every day. If our lives consist primarily of family relationships then an encounter with the King will shake us up and our relations. If we can compartmentalize our relationship with God so that we can keep family, friends, and coworkers oblivious to our faith then we have shut God out of our lives all together.