“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God,
shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”
(Philippians 2:15, NLT)
In recent weeks, we have heard and read in the news of West Africa’s struggle to deal with the outbreak of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever which appeared in March 2014. It has now affected the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria accounting for more than 2,800 deaths to date; and now, a second, unrelated, outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo since August 2014.
And when I shared (incidentally) about the 2 SIM missionaries who had contracted the Ebola virus during my sermon on 3 August, I was very much encouraged when a number of us followed up a week or two later enquiring about their health and how they and their families were doing.
SIM Liberia has been struggling in the midst of the present Ebola outbreak in West Africa through its ministry at ELWA Hospital. While serving the health needs of many Liberians, including those who had been infected by the Ebola virus, our missionaries Nancy Writebol and Dr Kent Brantly (seconded to SIM by Samaritan’s Purse) in turn contracted the virus, which has a mortality rate of some 70 - 90%.
By God’s grace – and through man’s diligence and stewardship in community (thus highlighting the Pauline concept of Christ’s Body as elaborated in 1 Corinthians 12:27) – both Nancy and Kent not only survived the deadly virus, they also had the opportunity to praise God and glorify His name through the long process of their evacuation, treatment and recovery. And more recently, Dr Rick Sacra, who stepped forward to lend a hand in overseeing the Obstetrics Department – in order to free other colleagues to focus on the Ebola workload – also succumbed to the virus. Through God’s mercy, Rick was also evacuated to the US and is now recuperating. He is expected to recover fully.
As we mull over this, we realize that our (PSPC and other) missionaries often live and serve in difficult situations: whether it is the physical environment, or the stress of security issues, whether it is healthcare or even psychological challenges. And the question that comes to mind and now perhaps challenges us is how should we respond, and how should we live and serve in a world which is increasingly full of trials and challenges? Further, perhaps the question that provokes reflection is – are such challenges and difficulties only for those set apart to be cross-cultural missionaries? Or are such challenges and difficulties actually to be expected by all of us who call ourselves children of the Most High God?
Our Lord Jesus Himself said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and we are exhorted, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21).
The Psalmist reminds us that God promises to him who “dwells in the shelter of the Most High” (that is, whoever has placed his trust and faith in Almighty God), “…I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15) … thus actually preparing us, His people, that trouble will find us – trouble will encounter us, even as we walk the Christian life, as His children!
Brothers and sisters – the human contributors to the Bible were no strangers to pain and suffering. And we know that one of the factors that led to the remarkable growth of the early church was because of the love and charity that they demonstrated as they took care of the sick and the poor (believers and unbelievers alike), even in the face of overwhelming challenges, such as during the great plague that swept the Roman Empire between A.D. 165 – 180, as well as the second one a hundred years later, even as they were persecuted by the Roman authorities. You see, what differentiated God’s people from the people of the world is how we act and how we hold up in the midst of trouble and difficulty!
Perhaps, as we as the body of Christ at PSPC …
- Worship passionately
- Live biblically
- Pray fervently
- Equip holistically
- Serve faithfully
- Evangelise globally
… let us be mindful that the context in which we live and serve, may not always say “thank you” nor praise us for our deeds. Sometimes we are ridiculed as we reach out with Christ’s love, but this ought not to deter us from “Proclaiming Salvation, Perfected in Christ!” as we launched our “Love in Action” which is our new Social Concern Ministry.
While I do believe that we should not be courting trouble foolishly and blindly, our Lord Jesus’ name is often most honoured and most glorified when we, His disciples, emulate Him and demonstrate a certain “familial likeness” to Him as we live and serve as salt and light in the midst of darkness and difficulty. After all, did not a certain poet write: “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” (William Shakespeare)
May we as God’s children “shine like stars in the night sky … in the midst of a warped and crooked generation” (adapted from Philippians 2:15, NIV) because we know we serve a good and able, faithful and loving God.
Eld Kelvin Chen