January 03, 2014
By John Scully
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10
During a recent vacation my wife and I flew to the Dominican Republic to visit our daughter who is teaching troubled American students at a live-in school located in Jarabacoa in the middle of the country.
The beautiful mountainous region almost made us forget that we were in a country with a standard of living far below what it is in America.
But this was a good trip for us. We were able to experience life on a different level, and yes, it was uncomfortable at times. We worried a bit about the threat of mosquitoes infecting us with dengue fever, constantly having to remember not to drink the unsafe tap water, and fearful of being lost while driving in a country where no one speaks English.
And one day - we did get lost.
My wife and I were driving an older rented car, relying on handwritten instructions for the 95 kilometer trip from the north shore back to the school campus, when we could not find the road that would take us home. We were in the heart of downtown Santiago, driving on crowded streets where lanes are not marked, a mélange of Spanish signs in all directions, people talking, horns blowing, scooters constantly slipping into the open spaces between cars, and beggars or street vendors knocking on our car window at every red traffic light. We had no more pesos to give them, and a few became angry. That was scary.
We lost track of our location, but kept on driving hoping to find our turn.
When it was obvious we were leaving the city and finding ourselves in a less densely populated area, we tried to retrace our steps, but could not find the road we needed. We feared to get out of the car in what looked like a rough area. At stop lights, rolling down the window, we asked people in the lanes next to us, “La Vega?”--the destination we had in mind, but no one understood our cry for help. The few words we knew, “Hola”, “Gracias” and “Como estas” could not help us. Sometimes the drivers seemed hostile. Others were unwilling to engage.
After multiple attempts, one fellow on a scooter who overheard our plea waved us on to follow him. We cautiously followed, uncertain if he was leading us the right way. When he signaled for us to turn, we obeyed, but found ourselves on an unfamiliar road.
We continued eastward for a long distance and finally to our great joy and relief, the highway appeared and, praise God, we were headed home.
How very much like our experience of fear and uncertainty must people feel who know they are lost in life, wandering aimlessly through each day, crying out for answers, feeling unsafe at times, fearful of the future, not knowing who would help them.
Like the man on the scooter who waved us on in the right direction, the job of native missionaries in foreign lands is to look for those who are searching and lead them to Christ. Christian Aid regularly receives letters from missionary workers who tell story after story of lost souls hearing the gospel and finding salvation and peace in Christ. Praise God for the diligent and effective work of indigenous missionaries who are seeking the lost.
From my recent experience I know the feeling of being lost, how it can be unsettling, whether traveling in a foreign country or for those living in lands of poverty, navigating the tough, burdensome roads of life.
But I wonder, when at that first encounter with the Christian message, especially in lands where Christians are a persecuted minority, if the lost sinner may be cautious of the new words of hope, of something unfamiliar, and may not, at first, feel comfortable—just as I was uncertain of the road we took by faith. Yet, when they trust the loving words of the messenger and turn to receive Christ in their hearts, behold, they find their way in life and rise up out of the pit to stand on the solid rock. The Psalmist put it this way:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:1-3 (ESV)