A heavy burden and a Word burning like a fire

Day 4, July 20 – Worms, Germany.

Hanging out with my sister and her family in Worms, Germany, is a powerful reminder of all that is involved for the Gospel to spread. As I previously indicated, Joe and Tammy Thomas and their family have been in Germany for 6 years, laboring diligently and faithfully to disciple Germans into the Christian faith.

My reading of missions history has made me aware that often the fulfillment of the Great Commission happens at an agonizingly slow pace, often with the participants making enormous sacrifices, and frequently with little evidence of success. We read of the great movements of God and may imagine that they happened with lightning speed in an exciting manner. We would like to believe that if we do all the right things and have enough faith, we will experience colossal breakthroughs in trying to reach others for Christ.

Joe and Tammy have a slightly different perspective. Their 6 years in Germany have produced some visible results, but the overall outcome of their efforts is still unknown. This work in progress demands that the Thomas family, like all who are on the front lines of the battle, walk by faith and persevere in doing what they feel called to do in spite of a lack of the kind of outcomes that they would prefer to see.

Calling. In 2006, with four children between the ages of 5 and 13, the Thomas’ moved from North Carolina to Germany. Germany is a post-Christian country occupied by native Deutsch mingled with massive numbers of immigrants from around the world. The gorgeous countryside, quaint villages, orderliness and efficiency, and economic power can easily mask the spiritual darkness and desperate need that is the Germany that God sees.

Lest I might think that taking the Gospel to a modern foreign country is glamorous and exciting, a visit to Worms has disabused me of any such false notion. Only Joe and Tammy know the full depth of disappointment, discouragement, and doubt that has assailed them in the past 6 years as they acclimated themselves to German culture, mastered the German language, cared for their family, fought financial battles, and initiated the task of building relationships with those whom God brings into their lives.

In spite of the hard road behind them and the difficulties that still lie ahead, Tammy now speaks of “being where God wants them”. I see their obvious gift of hospitality, their engaging friendliness, their adaptability to cultural quirks, their fluency in German, and their commitment to building relationships. The Thomas’ are in it “for the long haul”.

Listening to Joe and Tammy talk about their calling and vision, I am challenged again to be in it for the long haul, to run the marathon and not sprint, to look for the relationships that God gives me as opportunities for Kingdom advancement.

May all who are reading this take 90 seconds to contemplate the lyrics from a great Sara Groves song, When the Saints:

Lord I have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and know
its more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and I can’t let it go
And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

Lord it’s all that I can’t carry and cannot leave behind
it all can overwhelm me
but when I think of all who’ve gone before and lived the faithful life
their courage compels me
And when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought

I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaoh’s court
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them

I see the long quiet walk along the Underground Railroad
I see the slave awaken to the value of her soul

I see the young missionary and the angry spear
I see his family returning with no trace of fear

I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta nights
I see the sister standing by the dying man’s side

I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
I see the man with a passion come and kicking down that door

I see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them
I want to be one of them

PRESS ON!

Dave