A few months ago I was I sitting in a small wooden boat in Southeast Asia with some of my closest friends and teammates. We were trying to find our way up river through a maze of thousands of dead trees rising up out of the water. The naked trees rose high above our heads and looked like claws reaching out for us. Without the GPS in my hand it would have been impossible for us to navigate and we would have been swallowed up by those claws for eternity. This trip was different. There was a strong sense of foreboding and uncertainty like something bad was going to happen.
You see we had been attempting to get to this region for almost two years. This group of villages was one of the farthest and hardest to reach in the province. Many of the villagers had never seen a white person before, let alone a tall Asian-American with facial hair. Each attempt to reach the area was met with failure; bad weather, no boats, no guides, too many communist soldiers, too many unknowns, etc.
On top of that our hearts were heavy with the terrible news coming out of the Middle-East, specifically Syria. We read the news before our trip and in our minds all we could see were images of black clad terrorists killing children and beheading innocent people in the name of religion. And here we were working in a Asian communist country that persecuted Christians in the name of tradition and going into the heart of mistrust and fear. Despite their fears and our own fears we were compelled to go for the sake of God’s fame – that people who have never heard would have a chance to hear.
After two hours of motorbiking and four hours of boating we arrived in our first village. The kids were naked and shoeless and ran away from us like scared rabbits. Villagers stared at us outside their thatched houses on stilts. Nothing was out of the ordinary except for the extreme remoteness of the place. We made observations, prayed around the village, identified social needs, made casual conversation, picked up supplies and moved on to the next village upriver.
We had planned to visit at least seven villages that weekend but at our third village were approached by a group of local leaders. They “invited” us to answer questions at the village office. Two communist soldiers began their standard interrogation. I answered all their questions with patience and respect. There was nothing that was going to change their minds. To them we were outsiders with hidden agendas and most likely looking for ways to take advantage of the people and land. They escorted us back to our boats, rummaged through our belongings and confiscated our brimmed hats in the name of village security.
We were quiet as we made our way down river as far as we could go before the sun set. Since we were surrounded by jungle we set up camp on the only flat surface we could find, a huge rock at the bend of the river. Team moral was at its lowest point. After a dinner of cold sticky rice, insects and dried jerky, I laid down in my tent (on my hard ass rock) physically and emotionally exhausted. In my mind raced images of village children who needed hope and opportunity. Then I saw communist soldiers taking hope away. I saw animist’s worshipping trees and kids with charms around their necks to protect them from evil spirits. I thought about my friends who spent time in jail just because they turned from idols. I thought about the terrorists who murdered entire families. I saw heads on poles and kids dying on mountainsides. I saw injustice, hate and fear and I was pissed off at God’s enemies.
I vented my frustrations to Him, “God these people can be a bunch of $&?# sometimes! We’ve given our lives to help these people and all they do is take advantage of others, they took my freakin hat! They KILL and MURDER the innocent. These communist’s, animist’s, these terrorists, they don’t deserve you at all. They don’t DESERVE your SON!”
Immediately the Holy Spirit said to me, “Well Tobias, neither do you.”
God continued to reprimand me, “Tobias, you were the one who grew up in America and I PURSUED you! It don’t matter that you grew up in a Buddhist home. It don’t matter that you grew up on welfare, food stamps and in ghetto cities because I still gave you many opportunities to KNOW me! It wasn’t until you were a teenager that you repented because I relentlessly pursued you and sent people to love you and show you a different way!
You see these people!? These communist’s, animist’s and terrorists!? Who has EVER pursued them? For more than 2,000 years since I rose from the grave they have lived in darkness, fear and hatred. For generations, after generations, after generations they were born, lived their entire lives and died without ever hearing about ME and my message of HOPE. NO ONE has EVER told them!!”
At that moment, I had no more complaints for God. What I felt was remorse and regret that we didn’t tell them sooner. I realized that not reaching lost people with God’s message of hope was the greatest injustice of all.