Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Road Too Often Traveled

Tinuviel has one of the most compelling smiles you have ever seen. She was working with a lady doctor as a translator here in Gondor about ten years ago when she first heard about Jesus. She had been born and raised in Minus Tirith by strict Muslim parents. She knew that she needed to keep the fact that she was studying the Word a secret. After about six months she accepted Jesus as her King. She studied and went to church with friends for another six months when her doctor friend discovered that she had been lying to her family about where she was going on Sunday mornings. The doctor did not realize that Tinuviel's parents were clueless as to her new faith. She challenged Tinuviel to be honest with her family.

Finally, she told her mother and father the truth. She had not been going to work on Sundays, she had been going to church. This was seen as a great betrayal to the family. She was forbidden to see any of her Christian friends and she was forbidden to see the doctor again. When she slipped out to see her friends and go to church again her parents, and particularly her Grandfather went berzerk. She was beaten badly and locked up in her room for days. Then, everyday for weeks she was beaten and her Grandfather read the Koran to her. She tried to contact her friends but was unable to get out or get a messagae to them.
Her best friend was able to smuggle a Bible to her once but she suffered terribly with no end of pain in sight. She cried out in despair to God. After weeks of this she was praying and asking God why she could not hear Him. Why had he abandoned her. She heard an audible voice whisper in her ear. He said, 'I am always with you and I am here now but you can not hear me. You can not hear me because of your fear. Fear makes you deaf to my voice.' Tinuviel's family is originally from Rohan and the voice was in her native Rohan language. Apparently, the King speaks Rohan very well. The beatings went on. But her smile brightened each day and she expressed her love for her family more each day. Finally, her father came home determined to kill her. Her mother talked him out of it but the next day Tinuviel was able to contact her friends and they smuggled her out and hid her in a village for several months.
She really did love her family and after several months she went back to them. They received her warmly. The father was away on business and the mother and Grandfather were very grateful to have her back. When the father came back a few weeks later there was another beating but in the end they did not want to drive her away. They let her stay if she did not mention her faith.

Now the father had asthma very severely and it was not being treated well. The doctor was called back and I beleive saved the father more than once. During this time it became clear to me what some of the issues were. The family, except maybe for the Grandfather, were not that upset about her changing her religion. They were devestated that she had embarrased the family in the neighborhood. She had left her parents teaching and disrespected them.
The doctor felt terrible about this. She had not understood that Tinuviel was lying to her parents from the beginning. She thought that they knew what was going on.
The father eventually died- not coincidentally after the doctor left the country. Tinuviel married a nice young Christian man and they are serving the King down in Belfalas.

This story is important to me because it helped me make up my mind about extraction evangelism. That is, evangelism that pulls an individual out of their home and community to share the Gospel with them. In the West this is the normal mode of evangelism. In the Word it is remarkably unusual. When did Paul share with one guy? He found ways to share with whole communities and as a result we often see whole families - 'households'- won to faith. I think we reap what we sow. Too often we don't sow much and then blame our circumstances on why we don't see much happening. Too often I hear someone talk about sharing with a college kid but when it comes to the kid's 45 year old father we just don't think he will ever change. He is set in his ways and wont listen to what we say. We think hey, I bet I can talk this 20 year old kid into believing the Word, but we have less confidence in our ability to confront a 50 year old man. So, God is where in this scenerio? Exactly nowhere. We are leaving him out. It is no harder for God to save a 50 year old than a 20 year old. The reason we don't see it is because we don't have faith to believe it and so we never sow the Word in the first place.

On our team we have determined to share with the entire community and to never do any kind of 'secret' or behind the scenes evangelism. We are still learning. We are still growing. I believe that the King was honored in the way Tinuviel kept smiling. I believe that she is exactly where the King wants her today in spite of whatever we might have done 'wrong'. But I want to increase my faith and increase my ability to see the King at work here in Gondor. I know he loves all generations and if we have the faith to walk in it I think he has a plan to reach them all.


GuyMuse said...

What you write reminds me of something I read recently in a book where it states that the most common type of evangelism found in the NT is OIKOS evangelism. Yet we try to make mass evangelism, extraction evangelism, door-to-door evangelism, etc. the norm, when all along our focus should be on OIKOS evangelism.

Strider said...

I have looked at the oikos theories and I like them. But I think we need to focus more on community. In the end ekklesia is community. So, if your society is built on the family then that is where you should focus your ev efforts. If your society is village or some other structure of community then that is where we should be taking the gospel. The Good News of the coming Kingdom should be declared in the center of life in the societies we serve.

BKC said...

First, I agree with your post. It is on target. Also, I agree with your cautions against extraction. Good stuff. Needs to be heard, especially in the context which you are working.

But let me press you a little on the practical side of this. You said that your team has purposed to share with entire communities. Again, no argument here. But, pragmatically, not everyone has the same sort of platform to do this as you do. Your team takes aid of some form to entire villages and so it is a natural fit to address the entire village. Again, this is great work and a great strategy but what do you say to those who labor in other ways? Practically, how do you think you find these "centers of life" and live in them? I think this is important to talk about because, as I said, delivering large-scale humanitarian aid gives you a unique starting point. Any thoughts?

Strider said...

bkc- Thanks for commenting and asking good questions. We work on large scale projects at times but we also work in our own communities. We have a couple of principles that keep us on track here.
1. We only teach to someone who is teaching. It means that we don't share with people who refuse to share with others or keep their interests secret. This protects us from pouring all our time down black holes.
2. We only work with people who have permission from their lines of authority. We have found here in the city that if we are sharing with someone then that someone is under anothers authority in the family or community structure. By insisting on grandpa's permision and hopefully participation we avoid the appearance of going behind the family's back and betraying the teaching of their ancestors.
I think I will stop here and make my next post a story to illustrate what I mean here.

BKC said...

Those are good principles for thinking about this, IMO. Thinking about the lines of authority be complicated in a lot of instances but that is an important one. I look forward to your next post on the topic.

Anonymous said...

Dear Strider, It took me a few days to respond to this post because I felt a certain fury rise up within me even though I understand culture is very different than here in the west. It must have been quite difficult to adjust and perhaps still finding that adjustment is needed. I am curious about medicine? How easy is it for example to get simple tylenol if it is needed? Take Care and looking forward to the next post, Angie.

Strider said...

Hey Angie, I am not sure what about the post made you furious. If the treatment of the girl well, then I am afraid this is one very small story in a huge sea of such stories around the world.
The medical question is a whole nuther post. The system is broken. We can generally get tylenol and some simple meds here in the city but virtually nothing is available to the majority of the population who lives in the villages.
We praise God for the priveledge of having two family practice doctors on the team who have a small clinic in my basement.

Anonymous said...

Hi Strider you know me tooo well yes it was the treatment of the girl. I also realise that it is but one of soooo many more! Personally I feel ignorant to the very extent of what happens and try very hard to understand and seperate the issues. Because of this blog I have a clearer vision of what is happening and pray for your team. Thanks for the answer about meds!