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January 24, 2017

Surprised by Mercy

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Icy road in Central Asia.

Toward the close of last year, our Director of Development found himself in a car, on an icy road that stretched on for miles in the middle of nowhere. He was in one of the "stans" of Central Asia. It was deathly cold—well below zero degrees—the kind of cold that seeps into your bones.

Our Central Asia Director was driving the car. They were headed to one of the ministries that Christian Aid Mission assists. They drove for hours without seeing another car—it was just them, blazing down a runway of black ice that sliced through frost-covered fields.

But then. . .up ahead, at a dead stop on the road, was a car. The Central Asia Director hit the brakes, but the car kept moving, careening toward the stationary vehicle.

BAM!

Two worlds collided.

The impact pushed the vehicle off the road and into a ditch. To our directors' horror, there was a young family in that car—a man with his wife and baby. Mercifully, they survived without injury. They spoke the native language, of which our Central Asia Director knew very little—but enough to suffice.

The shivering young man explained how their car had suddenly stopped working. He was worried they would sue him for the damage to their vehicle.

They could have sued. But they didn't. They drove the family to their home, and left them with money to repair their car. Our Central Asia Director attempted to share the gospel with them in their language and left them with Bibles.

I don't know how much of the gospel message they actually grasped, considering the trauma and the cold and the language barrier, but I do know they were surprised by the mercy they were shown.

Justice demands that accounts be settled. You screw up, you pay the consequences.

Symbolic depection of the burden of debt.

You borrow more money than you can pay back? You become a slave and work off the debt or you go to jail.

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.

"The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.'Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt" (Matthew 18:24-27 NKJV).

Mercy is unexpected. It's powerful. It's freeing.

When a burden is lifted, when consequences are removed, doesn't it just make you want to shout. . .or cry or dance or sing? Doesn't it move you with gratitude?

Quietly working in Vihn City, Vietnam—the home of Ho Chi Minh and one of the most ardently anti-Christian cities in the country—a native missionary with a Christian Aid Mission-supported ministry fervently prayed that the vision God had placed in his heart would become a reality.

He dreamed of a church, which could also double as a missionary training center, for the small but growing group of Vietnamese believers in Vihn City. He had his eye on an old building, but it needed a lot of work.

God used Christian Aid Mission supporters to answer his prayer. They sent funds so he could purchase and renovate the building. He pastored God's people there, the only church in the area.

Believers praying in Vietnam.

In early 2016, as the pastor walked along the roadside, a car swerved and hit him. He was killed on impact.

The leader of his ministry immediately flew to Vihn City to comfort the flock he left behind. Some of them were angry. Some wanted justice.

But the leader urged them to trust God and to carry on. . .and then, he offered a challenge. Would one of the men in the congregation step up to replace the pastor?

It was a tall order. As a mission field, Vihn City is no picnic—it's fraught with difficulty and persecution.

More than 30 men volunteered. They turned their tragedy and loss into an opportunity.

Some of them left to plant new churches. Because of their hard work, 12 additional churches now exist in the area.

Shocked that no lawsuit was brought against her family, the mother of the driver who killed the pastor is now a believer in Christ. The congregation's forgiveness was a gift so lavish that she had to know where that gift came from.

Believers praising God in Vietnam.

A month later, the driver, his wife, and his six-year-old daughter quietly slipped through the doors of one of the churches. They have not yet trusted Christ as Savior, but mercy has drawn them nearer to its Source.

The parable in Matthew concludes with a warning. The servant—the object of so much mercy—went out from the king's presence and acted unmercifully toward his servant, throwing him into prison for not paying his debt.

The enormous debt Christ paid for us is cause to shout, cry, dance, and sing. But how often do we go out from His presence to inflict our demands on others?

Perhaps, like us, the servant didn't fully understand or appreciate the freedom that the king had granted to him. It's the freedom to be wildly generous with others—to surprise them with mercy.

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