Manage episode 364831588 series 3083900
The Ends of the Earth
Acts of Apostles was written by Luke. When Luke wrote this book, there was no such thing as Christians. They were all Jews. But they were different from the majority of other Jews. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for. So, we call them Messianic Jews. They were a very small group. After Jesus died, only 120 people gathered together to pray. A very small, insignificant group.
But Luke had a great vision. He had a vision that there will be God's witnesses not only in Jerusalem but to the ends of the earth. He believed in what Jesus said.
This was what Jesus said.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
What Jesus said came true. There were witnesses who went to the ends of the earth. What started with prayers of 120 people changed the whole world. Starting from Rome, the whole world changed. All Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, and Madagascar that I went to.
Slide: Church Picture
The picture you see is FJKM church in one of the villages where I taught. On the building, it says 1859. But the church officially began in 1968. FJKM means Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar. It has been a member of WCC since 1969.
This church is the biggest denomination as the reformed church in Madagascar. They have 6 million members. The Rev. Njato who organized this whole mission is a minister of 20,000 members. They have 5 separate services. It was 15,000 member church when I went last time and it grew.
I don't know how Luke had this big vision. He was like a prophet. That itself was a miracle. He didn't believe in the power of 120 people. He didn't believe in the power of 4 million or 6 million people. He believed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
You can see that in today's passage. He said, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you become a witness. That is what the Holy Spirit does. When you receive the Holy Spirit, you want to be a witness. And you will live a life of being a witness. Being a witness means simply to share what God has done in your life.
The Desire to be a Witness
I went to two places: Ambatondrazaka and Fianarantsoa. Since we didn't have enough time, we had to take a small plane when we got there. It's only 400 Km but it takes 20 hours by a car. On the way back, we came by a car.
Slide: Pilot from Sweden and a young mother from Holland.
They are all there because they want to be witnesses.
Every year, the church the Rev. Njato serves sends 50 lay missionaries. When they first started this project, they asked for help and so our church financially helped them. You see pictures on the way to the fellowship hall. Now, they are sending 200 people. They are just church members. Some of them are professors, engineers, teachers, and there are also who are not educated. They take vacation and go there to help establish a church.
In Madagascar, there are a few big cities but there are also so many small villages. There is no road to get there. So, you have to go there by Helicopter and there is a Heli Mission. Or some places, you go by a boat. These lay people want to be witnesses and that's why they get trained and go to rural areas. I helped them again with the fund you provided for me.
Just to take us around, two people took their vacation and drove us. One was a professional soldier and the other was a taxi driver by profession. One person took a week's vacation to do translation for us. They were all church members. For them, serving is their life. Serving for Christ is what they do.
They do this with the desire to be witnesses. That is the proof of having the Holy Spirit within them. The proof of having the Spirit is not about having supernatural gifts or speaking in tongues but having the desire to be a witness. Luke believed in this power. And we have seen this power throughout Christian history.
I went to train seminary students. FJKM has 4 seminaries. And there is a Faculty of Theology in Antananarivo. You study 3 years in these seminaries but they have to study at the Faculty of Theology for their final year. Then you go out and practice one more year. Then you can become a minister.
There are 7,200 churches in the national church but only 1,500 ministers. In Ambatondrazaka, there were 69 students and 77 students in Fianarantsoa. There were more female students in both seminaries. Their studying environment was not very good. They all live there. In a small room, 6-8 people live together. Not many facilities.
But they all have this desire to be witnesses. They didn't mind their difficult circumstances. They had this passion to be witnesses.
They could overcome all their difficult situations with this sole desire to be witnesses. When I taught them, they said they never heard this kind of teaching. They all learned Synoptic problems but first time, they were able to see Jesus portrayed in each gospel differently. They were so happy. The principal came to me with tears and said, are you gonna teach only 4 books. Teach us more. Come back next year. What they wanted was not money or material.
I went to their library. Only very old French books. I couldn't see any new books. Archaic books. They don't have a computer and so they write their paper by hand and go to the village and get it typewritten, paying. They could not even do the research.
So with the fund you gave me, I helped them set up a computer system. The church the Rev. Njato serves has many computer technicians and so they will set up for them. Several years ago, I brought many books in one of their theological seminaries and I could see them with our church name. They need more resources. Around the seminaries, they own a huge land. Students all learn how to do agriculture because when they go out, they have to teach people how to do effective agriculture. Their ministry will not be just teaching the Bible. There are many tribal languages. The Rev. Ohm raised U$100,000 and translated the Bible in Cianaca language. One person donated $100,000. They had worship service in their own language, using their own Bibles. Even at the seminary, there were people who spoke Cianaca language. So, we brought Bibles to the library.
I saw so many people who wanted to live as witnesses. They came from all over the world. Our life has to be a life of being a witness. God still works through you. You experience every day how God takes care of you and you experience his grace daily. You need to share that with others. That is what it means to be a witness.
God Works Through You
Years ago, when I went to Knox College, I once invited international students to my small apartment. I met a man from Madagascar then. We talked a lot. And he was teaching at Faculty of Theology. All the professors of two seminaries I served learned from him.
We don't know how God works in our lives. You need to be a witness to those around you but you also have to remember to be a witness to the ends of the earth. To experience that, Elder Daniel and his wife, Grace went this time. They stayed with me for the first week and they went to a different place in the second week. Daniel's brother's work has to do with agriculture and he is willing to help. So, Daniel did a presentation to people who can use Daniel's help.
Thank you for praying for us. I could feel your prayers there. You have made this mission possible through your personal help, mission dinner and prayer. Without your desire to be witnesses, this mission would not have been possible.
Before I left, one old lady from KSM told me that there would be an explosive effect. I said at that time, let's see whether what you are saying is a prophecy. It did have a very powerful impact on them. What God does Mysterious If you have a desire to be a witness, God can do a great work through you. What the Spirit did through disciples and St. Paul, he will do it through this church.