Step Backward in Fear or Move Forward in Love?

December 12, 2013

Prior to the standoff in Zamboanga City, fighting was already taking place in some of the Muslim-dominated areas of Mindanao where a ministry assisted by Christian Aid was working. These incidents of armed conflict were motivated by political disputes or family feuds. Some of the missionary teams were caught in the crossfire, but God kept them all safe.

The ministry´s dedicated gospel workers serve seven of the unreached Muslim groups in the southern Philippines. They have been joined by 11 new workers who are ready for deployment to reinforce the existing teams, and to form new teams that will bring the love of Christ to three more people groups in the region.

At the height of the standoff in Zamboanga, the ministry pulled all of their teams out from their assigned areas. They gathered in a city farther away for debriefing, evaluation, and strategic planning. As part of discussions, the teams reviewed their crisis management procedures and developed initiatives for reaching currently unreached Muslims with the gospel.

The ministry´s executive director followed up his presentation with a startling challenge to the workers assembled there that Saturday morning:

“How then shall we respond to all these pressing realities around us?” he asked. “Shall we step backwards in fear—or shall we move forward in love to reach out to these precious people?”

He dismissed the workers at 11 a.m. for a time of private communion with the Lord. Before the group disbursed, the ministry director announced, “If you are fearful and doubtful and no longer willing to come back to the field, please be honest and tell me. You need not come back to this room. Do not worry what others will say. Do not be ashamed if you think this is the best decision for you. I will readily accept and respect your decision and send you home with my blessing.”

Then he concluded, “If you commit to go back and serve the Lord among the unreached despite the dangers and given realities, you may come back to this room at 2 p.m. This would mean you are ready to serve the Lord at any cost.”

What followed was three intense hours of waiting. At 2 p.m., one by one the workers came back. Some had tears in their eyes. They shared what God spoke to them from His Word and how they thought back to the day God confirmed His calling on their lives. Others shared how their families were pressuring them to resign from the ministry and return home. One commented that her family had threatened to disown her if she did not heed their plea.

That afternoon every worker chose to return. With joined hands, they recommitted themselves to the Lord with submissive and thankful hearts.

Gospel workers encourage one another after re-committing to serve the Lord among Muslim tribes in Mindanao.

The next several days proved fruitful and worthy of celebration, as each team returned to the field and reported what God had accomplished in their respective ministry area. Precious souls were won to Christ despite the challenging situations the missionaries encountered. Indeed, God´s love cannot be hindered by danger or other obstacles.

“Lord, I am very joyful that amidst the difficulties, none of my fellow workers quit from the call to reach out to my people,” prayed a full-time gospel worker and former Muslim from one of the local tribes. “May you bless each of them for continuing to love my people.”

Because of security concerns due to Muslim extremists in the area, few details of this ministry can be reported. However, thanks to the commitment of these servants to the Lord, dozens of churches have been planted and scores of tribal peoples have received Christ as their Savior.

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