Slavery comes in many forms. It exists in every culture…even among tribes in Southeast Asia.
I had never seen a tribe so remote. After 2 hours of motorbiking and 3 hours of boating we finally arrived in a small village along the river. The houses sat on stilts, the roofs were made of thatch and the bamboo walls showed signs of decay. The people were from an ethnic group called, “Slaves of the Yellow Leaves”. The Yellow Leaf people have less than 500 speakers worldwide and are the least reached of the unreached. This tribe once lived in shelters made of banana leaves. When the leaves wither and turn yellow they abandon their homes and move to a new location in the forest. To not move would invite misfortune, sickness or harm from ancestor spirits.
Their poverty was overwhelmingly visible. Their enslavement to ancestor spirits was palpable. Their bondage to tradition and superstition was heart breaking.
In the midst of that darkness was a bright burning flame of 13 Jesus followers who enthusiastically invited us into their thatched home. This was why we had come. To follow up with a group of new believers who had been led to faith by local disciples we had trained. The Yellow Leaf believers gathered many of their friends and family to meet us. We listened to their stories.
The Slaves of the Yellow Leaves talked about freedom. They shared how one Yellow Leaf family was extremely sick and were healed after someone told them about Jesus. They talked about the ridicule and persecution they endured from local villagers and police for leaving the spirits to follow a “foreign religion”. Out of their poverty they shared food with us and gave us their own mats to spend the night in their home. They eagerly listened and practiced re-telling the story of Creation to Christ. Upon hearing the story of Jesus’ baptism they immediately wanted to do the same. Late that night 7 people were baptized in a river to express their commitment to Jesus. They are no longer slaves to ancestor spirits, man-made systems or yellow leaves. In Christ they are free.
Slavery comes in many forms. It exists in every culture…even among Christians in western countries.
I have never seen a Church so far removed from compassion. After 1 ½ hours of sitting in a Sunday program and singing about God’s great love for the world our greatest concern is what to eat for lunch. We return to our American dream houses, self-made careers and educational pursuits with no thought of obeying the things we’ve heard.
We Christians pride ourselves for being “The land of the free and the home of the brave…” yet discriminate against those who have different cultures, clothes, skin colors and beliefs. We vote our allegiances over to billionaire bigots or corrupt politicians as if they can move heaven and earth. We rally around social causes and cry out for justice without giving water to the thirsty or loving our neighbors. We fight for our rights to bear arms, make money and control our destinies as if they have eternal value. We fear not having control and leaving behind a lesser America for our kids and a country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
We are slaves to fear and fear has paralyzed us to the point of hatred. Our moral poverty is overwhelmingly visible. Our enslavement to the pursuit of security and self-preservation is palpable. Our bondage to religious traditions and cultural Christianity is heart breaking.
In the midst of this darkness is a bright burning bonfire of people who are genuinely living out their faith in word and deed. There are those who are sharing God’s story with friends, families and strangers. Many are inviting refugees, immigrants, homeless and lost people into their homes. Others are sharing meals with homosexuals, lesbians and the transgender. Others are humbly washing the feet of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Atheists. They are no longer slaves to the mirror, religious systems or pop culture. They are freed citizens of heaven, ambassadors of the Good News and pledge allegiance to one King, Jesus.
This is why we are the Church. To bring absolute Glory to God. To be a light in dark places. To see captives set free. To lead people from death to life and slavery to freedom. In Christ we are free.