All of us inclined our ears to hear what this old man had to say. Despite his circumstances, he radiated joy and contentment. The old man spoke and paused for the translator to interpret. The translator contorted his brow to think and said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” I lost it. Tears of joy and amazement flooded my eyes. I cried. We all cried. Did we lose our man cards in that moment? Yup. Did we care? Nope.
Flashback to earlier that morning, the Downline group I was a part of set out to meet a group of people so that we could travel together and serve a small mountain village in East Asia. The original purpose of our DL trip was to teach a series of messages at an international school, and to hang out with students. Our teaching schedule was packed and busy, but I was excited for the opportunity to teach God’s word in East Asia. Yet, when I heard that we were going to “serve” at the beginning of the week, I just shrugged my shoulders, thinking eh, the real fun begins later. To be honest, I hadn’t really put much thought and stock into serving a village.
Luckily, the trek up the mountain was safe and easy…and by safe and easy I mean dangerous and terrifying. At one point our manual car stalled out mid-mountain-ascent…don’t get me wrong, I like experiencing adrenaline rushes and nearly escaping my demise (probably too much) but that stuff got real. Another reality, however, set in as we neared the village. There was no way the villagers would be able to get down this mountain. They were stuck up there. The village was destitute and the villagers were impoverished. Seeing the need they had was sad and familiar, I have been in slums before where despair met hostility. However, there was something different about these people’s demeanor, they had joy.
Throughout the day we labored, doing the normal tasks one would do when serving a village in need. As I chopped wood, this sense of weightiness pressed down upon me. Something big was going to happen. One of my teammates was tasked with sharing the Word of God with the whole village. I was pumped. And I was expecting God to do a miraculous thing. When it came time for my teammate to speak, he spoke through a translator, and the entire time I’m watching the villagers listen intently. I was praying ‘God would you open up a heart this very moment?’. Toward the end of the message, our guy gave the opportunity to make a decision, but the translator said something amazing, “these people already believe.”
I was surprised and blown away and whatever other adjective you can add. These “forgotten ones” had a gospel witness! But how?! In that moment as I racked my brain to figure out how this happened, an old man, in fact the oldest man there, got the translator’s attention.
With no book or notes, the old man, for about an hour, preached of God’s faithfulness, shared his favorite Scriptures, and prayed with us. From his heart he was speaking directly to mine. This little old man quoted Psalm 16, my personal favorite, stated the need in East Asia for Jesus, and spoke about having an eternal perspective, all things I had been studying recently.
In view of God’s sovereignty I do not believe in coincidences. It was not mere happenstance that this man said those specific things to us. Here we are about to teach discipleship to others, and here he is teaching us! How crazy is that?! God has blessed me with solid mentors and leaders to infuse the Great Commission into my very being. But to be told to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel by that godly East Asian believer meant so much more to me.
My affections for Christ were never so stirred as they were in that moment. My awe of God’s wonder was never so struck as it was in that instance. To think that God would immaculately map our team’s lives together so as to visit that village, on that day, for that purpose, to hear the Great Commission pressed deeply into our hearts tells me that God is good, that God is sovereign, and that God will get glory from all nations. I look forward to the day when I get to see that man again, either in this life or on the other side of eternity.
Ambrose Chisholm is a recent Emerging Leader alum. He enjoys reading, sports, music, building great friendships, and orchestrating a very specific outcome in a game of mafia while watching others get confused during said game of mafia.