Sometimes our lives are like a walk in the dark. We know we are supposed to go forward but which way forward is and what it will look like when we get there are pretty fuzzy. It was like that for us when we started doing disaster response. We were challenged with a lot of questions from our friends who asked about our methodology. How was this going to get us to 'church'? How were we supposed to build big lasting relationships with people when they might be hours away. In some people's minds the only way to impact people was to go and live with them. I suppose that would be impactful for my family but we wanted to do something positive.
In October of 2000 there was an earthquake down in the south-central district of Gondor. Lasarnak sits just across the river from Mordor to the south and Ithilean to the east. This makes it politically sensitive and difficult to access. We drove the seven hour drive down to check it out and Gimli and Bilbo went from house to house assessing and praying for each family. We came up with a plan to recover and eventually helped the community to rebuild 230 homes. We partnered with another agency to do this and my good friend Beren oversaw the project on the ground.
It was not long before Beren was frustrated. He helped the people rebuild but all they could do was ask when Gimli was coming back. This, my friends is an important principle. If you are there on the day of disaster they will never forget you. You can come with truck loads of aid tomorrow and a multi-million dollar budget but the people will never forget the guy who was here today. Even if all he did was pray. But Beren prayed and worked hard. He tried to share his faith with those around him but the ground was hard as rock. The people were cold. No one wanted to listen.
The next year a small church in a town not so far away distributed over 200 Bibles in the same village. The year after that another friend of mine began a community development project there. He developed a Lasarnak local council to deal with problems and dream of development opportunities for their community. I went and saw them. They were still strict Muslims yet, they had changed. My friend had managed through stories and his own lifestyle to change their perception of reality. The good citizens of Lasarnak were developing a Christian world view. The new world view was complete with the idea that God cared about them, that sin was bad and needed to be atoned for, that they could not by their good works gain favor with God. These ideas and others were new to them and they were transforming the way they thought.
Then another friend of mine -the driver of our aid organization- began going down periodically. He has relatives there and he is very convicted about this dark unreached area. This last weekend he went down and two ladies, his neice and her mother came to faith. He was quite excited. So am I. I didn't have plan six years ago when we responded to God's call to go and help Lasarnak but God did. If we are obedient to all that He calls us to we might feel like we are walking in the dark but there is a light at the end of the tunnel- and no, my pessimistic friends, it is not a train.