Partnership missions: Stories from Southeast Asia
Editor’s note: The following stories were provided by a friend of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Because of the sensitive conditions of the friend’s location, the stories do not reveal specific circumstances or exact descriptions of people who are in connection with BGCO’s friend.
“A person’s life is limited, but to serve the people is unlimited,” thus reads one of many now-famous diary entries from a young soldier who died some 51 years ago.
I’d seen statues (of this young soldier) in the parks, heard his name mentioned from time-to-time in casual conversation, but I never expected to find his likeness hanging from the rearview mirror of a very chatty taxi driver.
To be fair, finding articles hanging from rearview mirrors is nothing out of the ordinary. Red-colored objects often adorn this crucial location, promising peace and safe journeys.
I’ve met one fellow who said he relied on his talisman so sincerely that he had kept it with him in all four cars he has driven in the past 20 years. But most of the folks who have these good luck charms are either Buddhists or atheists. You rarely meet a Muslim man hanging this sort of thing in his car.
Overcome with curiosity, I asked the 50-plus-year-old gentleman about the young man in the photograph. “I’ve never seen one of these in a taxi before. Who is he?”
The driver’s face immediately lit up as he beamed with pride. “Of course you haven’t! That’s because most drivers will never receive one of those,” he said. “That’s Lei Feng you know.”
“Oh, yes, I’ve heard of him. The selfless young man who did many good deeds. How did you receive it?” The driver then offered me a cigarette, which I politely declined. As he lit up and took the first few puffs, the story quickly came to light.
“You see, the government only issues these to a very few select individuals,” he said. “You must perform some sort of unexpected good deed, going above and beyond the call of duty. In my case, one day a customer accidentally had their wallet fall out in my cab. Later when I noticed it, naturally I returned it to him. He was so grateful that he recommended I receive this award. And there it is!”
The ride turned out to be a lengthy one, and as the conversation progressed, I learned that the driver was a Muslim. Suddenly I understood why it was so important for him to do good deeds.
As he started pontificating on the evils of eating pork, I casually asked if there were other things he wasn’t supposed to do.
“Oh, sure, I’m not supposed to drink alcohol or smoke either,” he said.
My face showed surprise at the irony of that being stated in a smoke filled cab. “Oh, I see. Well, you’ve done so many good things though, you even earned this award because you helped others. Surely God will forgive you for something small like smoking, right?”
To my great surprise, the man somberly replied, “Absolutely not. He knows everything we do. We have to do everything right. He’s not going to forgive me for smoking.”
Impressed with this gentleman’s piety and sense of God’s presence, I briefly offered to him the way to be forgiven through Christ. It was the first time he’d ever heard about it.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to believe just yet. I’m hopeful, though, as he looks at that photo of Lei Feng every day that he’ll remember someone else who lived a life of integrity, served the people selflessly, and stands ready to offer unlimited forgiveness and love.
A co-worker’s story 1:
The month began with a believing sister bringing a lost friend to one of our weekly Bible study groups. The Holy Spirit opened her heart to the sharing of the Gospel, and she called upon Christ to be her Savior and Lord.
We then encouraged her to obey Christ by following Him in baptism. She was so moved by her need to obey, and out of concern that her very busy class and work schedule would keep her from living in obedience, she expressed her desire to be baptized before she left our apartment. We quickly made the preparation, and she followed Christ in baptism before leaving.
During our Tuesday night sharing the following week, regular attendees came but also brought many new unbelieving friends with them to hear the good news. This was the week that we began to introduce “Training Trainers” format to prayerfully prepare our friends to continue on after our scheduled departure.
The introduction included the Father’s heart and desire to bless (first promised to Abram) and His ultimate blessing through Abram’s seed (Jesus Christ), the sharing of the Gospel, the Father’s heart and desire for the nations, how believers are to fit into that desire as they live in obedience to His Great Commission and Great Commandment.
We concluded with how followers of Him are to actively share (train) others to share and to train others.
Before the evening was complete, a non-believer friend who had been brought for the first time by a sister began to weep uncontrollably in the presence of all present. She began to apologize for her crying and said that she couldn’t control it. She confessed that she was so moved by the words (we know Who was moving her) of the Father’s love for her, His heart and desire to bless, His ultimate blessing for her in Jesus Christ, His heart and desire for the nations, etc. She acknowledged that it was the first time in her life that she had ever heard this good news.
After careful review of her lost condition and giving counsel to what she could have in Him by me and several nationals in their native language, she said that she wanted to surrender her life to Him. She then prayed with a fellow national leading her to receive Him. Afterwards, we shared with her the meaning of baptism and encouraged her to follow in her first step of obedience. We planned the event for the next week. I then turned to R., the believer friend, who had brought her and said, “This week you can encourage her to follow through OK?” Then R. said back to me “OK, but I haven’t been obedient to Him myself, because I have never been baptized”. Then she said, “I must do this with her next week”.
Before J. left she asked, “What will I do if my parents are not supportive of my decision to live for and follow Him?” I said, “You need to prepare yourself for it, because it is a real possibility since they have probably never heard the Good News themselves.” Another national encouraged her, interpreting my words and adding her own. I said, “Christ never tells us to not love or respect our parents, but He does say that we must be willing to love Him more and be willing to obey Him if we want to be a follower of His.”
I followed up with her two days later by phone, and she said her parents were very disappointed with her, but then in her words she said “It really doesn’t matter, I have made the right choice to follow Christ”.
I was so impressed that even though she had a good idea before sharing with her parents what their response would be, she still wanted to tell them of the new journey and relationship that she had entered into as a follower of Him. It was such a blessing to see the boldness that this new believer displayed in the midst of real pressure.
A few days later, this new follower of Him called to ask my permission to bring a non-believing friend of hers the following week to our gatherings, so that her friend could have a chance to hear the good news as well. Both J. and R. followed Christ in baptism the next Tuesday evening as planned. It was a great night of training as we encouraged two faithful believers to obey the Great Commission by baptizing R. and J. It was the first time for them to lead in this and their hearts were filled with so much joy.
This month we have been blessed by hearing of the ongoing ministry of two very faithful sisters who visit us each week. Both have completed their college studies and have begun some “work internships.” They have both been employed part-time by two different schools in different locations of the city.
These two young ladies have been given a great boldness by Him to share in some of the most difficult, risky and dangerous environments. One has begun to share the Good News with her boss and others in the school where she is interning.
The other recently told me that she is sharing the Good News with her students almost every time she meets with them. She is sharing the birth and resurrection of Him, portions of scripture and songs that she has learned in our gatherings.
We are careful never to discourage them or to even say to them “Be careful.” These two young ladies are very clever. I know that they are fully aware of what they are doing and the risks that accompany it. Their hearts are so full of the joy of the Lord. All we can do is to encourage them and pray for their safety and continued boldness.