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19 Jul '08

Ordinary people

Posted by T.J. Addington in church, missions, The heart
I am on a crusade to convince the church in America and a few other places where we have placed such a premium on education and thus suffer from the dysfunction of "professional ministry" that God can use ordinary people in extraordinary ways. Every time I read the Bible I find them and how God used them. Every time I travel I find them and am amazed at what God is doing through them.

Take John for example, pictured above (his name and exact location are not named here for security purposes). He is a Kurd, one of 40 or so million who live in the Middle East and whom no one really wants. He grew up in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq where his family was constantly under harassment by Saddam's security forces.

His father was killed by Saddam's police. Twice he had to flee with his family when his village was under attack. He grew up as a Muslim but never really thought that Islam had the answers to life.

Someone gave him a New Testament to read and from time to time he would pick it up and read it. He was intrigued. One day his brother in law saw the New Testament in his house and warned him to get rid of it - he was on the tribal council. John didn't think too much of it since it was his brother in law. But one night he got a knock on his door and his friends said, "You need to leave now! A death sentence has been passed on you because of your Bible."

John fled, finding his way across Syria and stumbling into Lebanon in the winter, his feet frost bit because of the cold - walking across stony fields because he didn't dare take the main road. Once in Lebanon he started to ask around for someone who could explain the Bible to him. Quickly he found a few other Kurdish refugees who he met with for a Bible study.

Soon, however, John was picked up by the security police in Lebanon for being in the country illegally. He was put in jail where because of his Bible (his only possession) he was tortured for 18 months. I asked John, "when did you place your faith in Christ?" He said, "in prison."

Inexplicably he was let out of prison and again started to look around for someone who could help him know God better. He was taken under the wing of a local Christian fellowship in Beirut who discipled him and almost immediately got him involved in doing evangelism among Kurdish refugees and others in the area.

He was so successful that the preachers in the local mosques took to preaching against John, warning people to stay away from him. Numerous times he has had threats on his life and it is not uncommon for him to sleep away from his apartment.

I sat with John one afternoon in his apartment. When he is there he keeps his door open and a steady stream of people walk in to talk with him and just be there. I asked a lady who was there, "Why are you all here?" She said, "Look at John's face. Do you see how peaceful and happy he is? That is why we are here."

Since that afternoon, John has actually started a church and I had the privilege on another trip to sit with 40 people crammed into his tiny apartment in three different rooms worshiping together. John's future in Lebanon is uncertain. He is a United Nation's refugee and is under pressure to leave the country. But he remains peaceful and radiant.

John has no higher education. He has only known Christ since 2005. Yet here he is, a gifted evangelist, a church planter, working among one of the hardest populations in the world and seeing significant fruit. John had the privilege of being mentored by a leader who believes in developing, empowering and releasing people into meaningful ministry and John is a product of that wonderful gift.

Our nation and our world are full of people like John who from a world standpoint are the most ordinary of people but from God's standpoint are His "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)."

The question is, will we look for and release ordinary people - most of us are just that - in significant work for His kingdom?