This picture may not look like much. In fact, it may look like an accidental shot or one of those photos you used to take when trying to use the rest of a roll of film before you got it developed. For me, this picture of men standing tells a story of an unforgettable meeting. It is a picture of cultures coming together and finding community in the Cross.
We captured this picture during our time in the Middle East. We were at a house church in a mountain village to see God at work in the lives of children in that region. While we were just getting settled, a group of men walked up.
Perhaps you’re not like me, but when I’m in a foreign land, especially one where my faith may be a threat to others, and a group of men come walking up… I get a bit nervous and start to wonder what’s about to happen. However, what happened next was what I imagine moments in Heaven will be like.
Most of the men in this group are disciples of Jesus. These men, like me, wanted the best for their families. These men, like me, desired Christian fellowship. These men, like me, wanted to see their children raised as girls and boys rooted in the Truth of God’s Word.
These men, like me, were all once sinners and deserving of God’s wrath. These men, like me, became new Creations in Jesus. These men, like me, found their identities in Him.
From among this group of men came stories of life interrupted. Some had been soldiers, some refugees. All had been affected by instability in government and forced to live lives quite different from their hopes and dreams. Yet in the midst of their stories was the difference that Jesus made.
I was moved by the stories of God’s faithfulness in the lives of these men and their families. How, in the midst of chaos, they chose to follow Christ. In doing so, some were risking their very lives. I was also incredibly inspired by the man at the center of most of these men’s stories, their pastor who I’ll call “Pastor Tony”.
Pastor Tony is a man who exhibits “courageous hospitality”. He opens his home and his life to families who have been displaced and boldly serves everyone in his community. However, Pastor Tony wasn’t always like this. He used to fear living out his faith in his country.
Pastor Tony, prior to being a pastor, desired to witness to his neighbors, but he was terrified to do so. One day when he was working on his house, Tony hit an electrical wire, sending a shock through his body strong enough to knock out several teeth and burn some of his flesh. In that moment, Tony understood it is only God whom he should fear, not man. While it may be a gruesome story,l this experience was a powerful wake up call and changed the trajectory of Pastor Tony’s life. He and his family have opened their home in order to reach men, women, and families with the love of Jesus through weekly worship gatherings, discipleship groups, and the ministry of Awana!
Chances are, you may never meet these men on this side of Heaven. The husbands and fathers have all but been forgotten as they live as refugees. However, their lives and their families all matter to God. They are all created in His image. I am grateful to have met these men. I’m grateful that they shared their stories with me. I’m grateful for men and women like Pastor Tony and his wife who are being used by the Lord to do important work amongst those who need the hope found only in Christ.
You may never walk the dusty roads that some of these men have walked. I pray you never experience the pains they have experienced. But I invite you to stand with Pastor Tony and these husbands and fathers. I invite you to be part of bringing hope to their children and their children’s children by sharing this post as well as giving to the Awana ministry. Your gift is more than a financial contribution, it is a partnership to bring the hope of Jesus to children and families around the world. Would you partner with us today to reach kids with the love of Jesus? Help make hope happen by visiting awana.org/hope and clicking the “donate” button in the upper righthand corner.