July 22, 2014
Heaven is For Real
By Brittany Tedesco
I’ll bet you’ve heard of someone—perhaps a friend of a friend—who’s gotten a glimpse of the afterworld. Maybe it was due to a near-death experience where their spirit temporarily left their body. I’ve heard a few of those stories, mainly originating from Christians who’d caught a preview of heaven and were bummed to have to “return” to earth.
But I’ve also heard stories that weren’t so nice. My husband told me about an acquaintance, an unbeliever, who told him about a near-death experience (and accompanying vision) that horrified him. The thought of it visually upset him, and he didn’t want to talk about it.
These kinds of experiences fascinate a lot of people. Just look at the popularity of the book (and movie) Heaven Is For Real. A four-year-old supposedly spent some time in heaven during an emergency surgery and people flock to learn what he saw and heard.
Instinctively, we know we’re built for more than just this earthly existence. As an old quotation put it “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” And this body isn’t meant to last for eternity. One day, we’ll exchange this perishable one for an imperishable one.
“I don’t care what I’ll be doing in heaven, even if I’m just the janitor cleaning toilets!” my friend, Janice, said to me the other day. Our conversation led into whether or not they’ll be a need for toilets—or janitors—in heaven. Realizing how little we know, we started laughing, joyful that one day we’re going to know.
Dallas Willard wrote that “we are built to live in the kingdom of God. It is our natural habitat.” I can attest to that. Becoming a Christian was, for me, like coming home. It just feels right.
If you’re like me, the spiritual realm can feel so near sometimes—and yet so far away at the same time. Earthly stuff can dominate my life.
James Cuffee (center in white shirt) rejoices with new believers who were just baptized.
I speculate that this is why God has allowed certain people to have “other-worldly” experiences and visions: to keep their attention where it needs to be. The Apostle Paul could point to an exact time in his life where he was “caught up to the third heaven,” though he wasn’t sure if he was still in his body or out of it at the time (2 Corinthians 12:2).
At Christian Aid Mission, we just heard from James Cuffee, a native missionary from Liberia—and modern-day apostle—who told us about a vision he had in 1985.
He saw people, some from every ethnic group on earth, suffering in what he knew was hell. He then saw a line of people, of every nationality, marching with branches raised above their heads toward what he knew was heaven. A table was waiting for them, on top of which were crowns: their reward. James’ vision flashed toward hell once more before it ended.
He knew what he had to do, and he’s been at it ever since: sharing the gospel with people in his country who’ve never heard the name of Jesus. James was once like them. He grew up among a people who preferred to remain drunk on fermented sugar cane juice than face the reality of poor, village life. His father practiced voodoo, and was to James like a god. He had no knowledge of the one, true God.
Liberia isn’t a pretty place. After three civil wars and 20 years without running water or electricity, its people lack even the most basic tools that would allow them to make a life for themselves—things like tractors, seeds, fertilizer, and farming implements. More than 60 percent of the population is unemployed and those who do work make between 50 cents and $2 a day.
But James doesn’t let lack of resources keep him from his purpose in life. No transportation? He’ll walk—sometimes up to eight hours through a jungle—to share Christ with a remote village. Malaria? You bet. Waterborne illness? It’s just another day in the life of James Cuffee.
Unable to afford a projector to show the Jesus film to a crowd of people, James rents one. Unable to afford a canoe to cross a lake to unreached villagers, he rents one.
That vision he saw lit a fire under him that’s never burned out, and I have to believe it has carried him through the darkest and most difficult experiences in his ministry…because he is, quite literally, one of the most genuinely joyful people I’ve ever encountered.
He’s got heaven on his mind, and he’s determined to bring others with him. Let’s help him do it.