Ansell: Open doors for productive ministry, but not without adversity
I just got back from a mission trip to Houston. The original goal was to go to Syria and share Jesus with a war-torn country. I wanted to jump out of airplanes, into the back of Jeeps with a backpack full of Bibles like a Christian Indiana Jones. I wanted to look into the eyes of these people who are suffering from poverty and being killed by their own president and tell them God loves them and there is hope through Jesus Christ.
I hit a few barriers on my way to Syria. First of all, you can’t get into the country because of war and Covid. There are language barriers, and so I needed to find partners in the Christian community, and that was harder than hard. So after 18 months of prayer, I found some people in Houston that were ministering to Arabic speaking people, and I was promised there were Syrian refugees living in Houston, blah, blah, blah.
This trip was hard, starting from when we left the driveway, and that’s okay. The Apostle Paul said he had experienced open doors for productive ministry, but they were not without adversity (1st Corinthians 16:9), so what I’m saying is hard is normal for the Christ-Follower. Adversity is not fun but it’s normal.
I met some great Christians that were leaders on the trip and had team members that were committed, and they blessed my socks off. We had great training, and then we went out for three days to knock on doors. We went to marketplaces, hung out in cafes, bakeries and we prayer walked. We also never saw a Syrian refugee, and at some level that’s okay too - disappointing but okay, God is good, He’s faithful and He is sovereign.
The Sunday we were away from our home church, we attended First Baptist in Houston, and I gotta tell you it was a great experience. Obviously it’s a big church, the meeting room probably had room for 3,000 people. The music was loud, just like we see in Scripture (Psalm 150:5, 33:3). People were worshipping through music hard, just like we see in Scripture (1st Chronicles 13:8). There were lights, just like we see in Scripture (Revelation 21:23). There was joy in the worship, just like we see in scripture (Psalm 149:3 - it’s happy people that dance, Psalm 100:1 - 2). Did I say this was one of the best hours of my trip, because I meant to. To be honest I felt like John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation seeing things I had never really seen before, and even now sitting at my kitchen table words can’t capture the experience.
As I looked around the room, I saw old people and young people, people of all colors, all races, all united, hands raised, singing loudly to the Lord and about the Lord. We were blessed to worship with the grad school student (our youngest daughter Klaire), and at one point I leaned over and shared with her, “This is what heaven is going to be like (that’s based on Scripture).” There will be light, endless worship, loud music, the presence of the Lord, freedom, a oneness, a wholeness (even though we did not know any of these people, it’s like we were one because of Jesus). The service and the DNA of the church seemed to be life giving, full, hopeful, energetic. The sermon was challenging and told us to go, go, go, be the church! Wow, just wow! Heaven is going to be so good. He told me to tell you that.