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God with usDecember 3, 2018
As someone who lived for 20 years overseas in Europe I have a pretty good idea what overseas missionaries who serve with IMB are facing as they enter the holiday season. Many of them are living in countries where Christmas traditions are vastly different from the traditions they were raised with here in the U.S. Many of our IMB missionaries will not spend Christmas with their families and friends but will be in strange and foreign places, struggling to communicate in a language that is not their own, hoping, praying and pleading with God to bring about opportunities to share the gospel and see a lost person redeemed, made right with the King of Kings whose birth we will celebrate in just a few weeks.
While I was writing, I had to reflect on my first Christmas overseas away from family. I was in seminary in Amsterdam, single and contacted a couple who were serving as church-planters in Paris, France. I made my way down to the ‘City of Light’ in early December where I stayed with the missionary couple and their two young children for the entire month of December. It was hard to be so far away from family and friends, unable to communicate with the locals since I did not speak French and yet I remember so vividly the worship service with French Christians on Christmas eve. That night as the church bells rang from the great cathedrals in the city center of Paris, I realized this small body of evangelical believers who had gathered together were my ‘family’. They were my family because we shared a common bond in Christ which transcends all racial, ethnic, language and cultural boundaries. We gathered to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24-25) and we celebrated the coming of Immanuel, God with us who came to redeem us from our sins. It was a powerful experience I will never forget as long as I live.
As I was watching and selecting the videos that will be shown during the month of December promoting the Lottie Moon offering, I had to close my door because I was getting emotional. I rarely cry and if I do no one can see it. Watching these videos made me emotional because of the challenges of my own experience living overseas and realizing these overseas missionaries have left everything behind because of their love for Jesus and the gospel. Many will face loneliness and hardship during the Christmas season for the sake of the gospel but I’m willing to bet most if not all could echo the words of Paul when he said in Acts 20:24 ‘But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’.
Believer, if our 3,367 missionaries serving with IMB in places from Norway and Italy to France and Brazil and as far away as Tanzania can make the sacrifices they make every day for the sake of the gospel, surely, we in the comfort of our homes can not only commit to praying but also commit to giving financially that the work of the gospel can continue, disciples can be made so that Christ can build His church. The gospel really is good news of great joy that will be for all people.