by Jackie Parks, Coordinator of Strategic Projects: North Africa & the Middle East, Mission ONE
Every day for the past 2 weeks, I’ve spent my time digging through the files of Mission ONE. My task was simple enough: familiarize myself with the organization and create some social media posts that would introduce our partners to the world. What started as a list of to-dos, quickly developed into a spiritual discipline that shaped my soul and my prayer life.
I grew up in the Church, was a Biblical Studies Major in college, lived overseas for a few years, spent some time on the staff of a church, and am currently in seminary. I don’t say these things to brag, but to give some context for how much of my life has been spent in church and ministry. Yet, so little of it has been shaped by the power of prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. This isn’t to say there wasn’t prayer or an active dependence on the Holy Spirit, but that we tended to be more self-sufficient instead of prayer-dependent. It is not hard for self-sufficiency to become the norm in the North American church. We have very little physical need. Our lives are very comfortable. We are taught from a young age that self-reliance is the highest achievement; not needing other people becomes a badge of honor. It’s not very often we take into account how those lies have affected our spiritual formation, and in particular, our prayer lives.
Do we really believe that God has the power to transform hearts, to heal disease, or to remake communities? Or has our pride, that thrives on self-reliance and boot-strap hoisting, led us to believe that nothing happens if we don’t make it happen? Have our hearts become so callous that it’s hard to believe that there truly is a resurrection power (Rom 6:10-11) that lives within us as followers of Jesus?
If I’m honest, this is the tension I live in almost every day. Do I really believe in the sufficiency of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit? Or do I think that if I only work a little harder, I can work God out of job?
As I spent time reading report after report of our indigenous partners, I thought of this passage from the book of James and have read it almost every day.
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for 3 years and six months, it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain and the earth bore its fruit.”
— James 5:16b-18
What I read in those stories from our partners are modern-day Elijah stories. Modern-day stories of normal men and women from all over the world who are on their knees— fasting and praying for the power of God to be real in the lives of their people and their communities. These global believers live out the life of prayer that Jerry Trousdale talks about in his book, Miraculous Movements:
“Prayer is the greatest weapon that any disciple-maker can wield, and God’s people are using it effectively around the world at this very minute. Prayer takes the spiritual battle out of the human realm and puts it fully into God’s hands, and not even the power of hell itself can stand against His mighty Spirit. It is prayer that has opened the doors, torn down the walls of bigotry, and broken the weapons of hatred. When God’s people kneel in prayer, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)” (pg. 53).
We, as the Western church, are in desperate need of these voices from our brothers and sisters around the world. Whether we recognize it or not, we need their wisdom and discipleship. We need their stories of God at work beyond human capabilities. We need their stories of provision, perseverance, and pursuit of their neighbors. We need their stories of the Church exploding amidst extreme poverty and persecution. In short, we need the Global Church. And as we read in Proverbs 27:17, we need to be sharpened by the Global Church. Their experiences and their stories should stir our hearts to deepen in our love of Jesus and dependence on Him through prayer. We should desire to learn from them, like the Apostle Paul, what it means to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13).
This is why I count it a privilege to join the Mission ONE team. Mission ONE is uniquely bridging the gap that exists between the American and global church. Through the relationships with these indigenous partners, we aspire to pull back the curtain and give others a front-row seat to how God is at work around the world. Our partners are not just asking us to be observers, but inviting us to be participants. This participation can take many forms. Maybe it’s the form of prayer or a note of encouragement. Maybe it’s a financial investment that allows these messengers of the Gospel to continue the work of planting churches that create flourishing (spiritual, physical emotional, etc). Most of all, we should participate as learners who have a hunger to see God at work and a desire to grow as a disciple of Christ.
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