Written by a Cafe 1040 Student
“I do not have a favorite Bible story because my favorite is the entire Bible, the old and the new. All of it speaks God’s love, every single word. How can I choose one story if every word is Him telling me how much He loves me?” – Local believer in Southeast Asia
“Sing for us!” I still could not believe my eyes. As I look around the room, I see locals holding Bibles in their hands. The Bibles are in their own language and the girl sitting next to me can tell I am staring at hers with tears in my eyes. I look a guy on my team, and we decide that we are going to sing Amazing Grace. We start singing and I look around the room to find that the locals knew the song we were singing. After we finished the last verse, we asked them to sing for us. Just a moment passes before they begin clapping, singing in their own language, smiling, and worshipping our Father. From young girls to grandmas that are holding their grandchildren, each person is singing with such joy and admiration.
They finish their song and begin to tell us how they are doing a week long deep study of God’s word to understand Him more. In addition to meeting twice that week, which is their normal schedule, they will be meeting every single day for at least two hours to read and sing together.
“We must keep going, we can not be here too long. We do not want to bring unnecessary attention to this church,” our tour guide S* said.
I look around again and begin to cry as I say my goodbyes to each sweet face that I have just worshipped our Father with. My tears were not sad ones, but instead ones of joy and conviction. We all say our goodbyes, take photos, and they ask if they can pray over us as we continue on our journey. The only prayer request they have is that they would know God more today than they did yesterday through His Word and the Holy Spirit.
After this, we pushed further through the mountains to our next homestay. Hiking up and down rocky paths, clutching onto the side of a mountain, walking by waterfalls, and sliding down the muddy side of the jungle where there is no path. Ten miles later we found our last homestay. We cleaned off the mud to prepare for dinner. “The church is here, pass it on and come out discretely,” one of my teammates whispered into my ear.
Two by two we went out to a small home next to the homestay and waited for the rest of our team and the church to show up. While we waited, we went through our teaching again. Soon, we saw locals pouring into this small room that was only lit by a single light bulb. I looked at my watch, 9 p.m. It was dark inside and out, but I could make out the faces around me. We met for two hours that night, sharing stories from the Bible, praying over each other, and singing side by side praises to the Father. After church was finished, we asked one of our other guides, Z*, to share her testimony and what her favorite Bible story was. Her testimony showed the power of God’s grace and sovereignty, so much so that I cannot even write it in an email because it would not do God justice.
These churches are in the middle of the mountains in this Southeast Asian country. The stories that come out of the church among this people group are ones of losing land, being imprisoned and starved purely because they are Christians. They are asked to sign papers declaring that they will deny Jesus. They are sent to work camps and face persecution regularly. There are many rules set against the churches here on when they can meet, how often they can meet, how many can come together.
And yet, they still meet regularly and share their faith. And yet, they gather at night from 1 a.m. until 4 a.m. so that they will not be caught. And yet, they are still joyful to serve the Father and spread His Good News to all the villages around them.
This one week of trekking through the mountains, slipping on mud, getting cuts on my hands and legs, walking several miles in the pouring rain was worth it to see the work God has done here. This people group is now considered reached and multiplying. They are leading their own orgs and sending out leaders to other villages. There are now more people in this group that know Jesus than those who do not. In a place that is so hard to reach, God has reached out His Hand and pulled them into His fold.