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Tea Before the Journey

April 2, 2019

*What does it mean to come alongside local believers and help them to reach their own? Sometimes it is as simple as sitting down for tea. One of our missionary families serving in a security-sensitive area recently shared a story of a mother and daughter eager to take the Gospel across borders to reach their own people. By partnering with local believers, we are able to gain access to peoples and places we otherwise would never be able to reach. We can provide training, resources and prayer, while learning an incredible amount about other cultures and customs. By working together, more people can come to know the love of Christ.*

Two white tea cups with red hearts laying on saucer and table The electric tea pot popped and hissed as I prepared the teacups and a small snack for our guests who would be arriving soon. They wouldn’t be staying long, but chai is a prerequisite for any time spent with local friends, a sort of ceremony to welcome others in, both physically and figuratively. The cadence of boiling water being poured, the plop of the sugar cube, spoons clinking the tea cups, hands raising steaming cups to smiling lips – it’s a rhythm of warmth, friendship and hospitality that is central to the culture here.

Our friends arrive and we greet them with hugs and hellos, welcoming them into our home for the first time. They are a mother daughter pair, Natasha* and Sofia*, and this is my first time to meet Sofia. They are warm and gracious and very tall – an unusual trait for this part of the world! As we settle in around the ritual of chai, they are quick to move towards the intended topic of conversation today – their upcoming trip across the southern border of our country to minister to a group of their own people who live in an isolated mountain community.

Sofia sets down her chai and takes the lead in describing the community to us, as she has already been on a previous trip to the remote village. From our city, it will take a plane ride plus an arduous 12-hour drive through rugged mountain terrain to reach their destination. She explains how they plan to purchase basic supplies for a children’s camp after their flight and before their trek, and how they will additionally need to bring water, fruit and vegetables, as even these basic necessities are scarce there.

The village is located at 13,000 feet above sea level, and living conditions are extremely harsh. Sofia shows us pictures of the villagers she met last time. Their faces are chronically wind-burned and sun-burned, and she speaks with great sadness over how much younger these ladies are than they look. They had brought some simple crafts for the children, but it is the ladies who are excited about making bracelets and necklaces. At night the guests (and locals) sleep on cushions on the floors of the small homes, and Sofia recalls how she suffered through the week with fleas because of the sleeping conditions. Not wanting to shame her hosts, she simply explained that she had bug bites from playing outside with the kids.

Our own kids are gathered round us, watching quietly as Sofia clicks through the pictures, shocked as they witness the poverty across the computer screen. “Do they know Jesus?” my son asks as he tries to make sense of it all. “No, they don’t sweet boy. But we hope we can introduce them,” Natasha answers him simply. She is a nurse by trade, a very good one, and she is eager to educate the women on some simple community health issues during her time there. But it is obvious that the mother-daughter pair are most excited to bring the hope of the Gospel to those that are in desperate need of hope, especially of the eternal nature.

Natasha is just a first-generation believer herself, and as such is catching the vision of multiplication. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) While these pictures look like the end of the earth to us, it is literally their Judea, their own people, their neighbors. Their simple, two-room flat in our city is luxurious in comparison to village life, yet they are willing to count the cost.

As time draws short, we gather closer as we bow our heads in prayer. These women are brave and bold, and we are honored to be a small part of what they are doing. Our American passports would not allow us to cross the border, and our measly language skills are an even more insurmountable barrier as these villagers only speak the local language – but Natasha and Sofia do not even need to cross cultural barriers to reach them. We pray for the Gospel to go forth through these beautiful souls, and that it would catch fire here in this dry and weary land. The presence of the Holy Spirit is palpable.

Before they leave, we are able to share a financial gift with our friends to help them in their ministry. Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude. We have enough to give only because of the generosity of others – we are simply conduits of God’s finances, directing His funds from one bank account to another. We express this to them as we press the American dollars into their hands. It all belongs to Him already, just as it always has.

We hug and kiss goodbye, then see them out as they retrieve their shoes at the door. The chai cups are emptied now, but our hearts are infinitely fuller.