March 30, 2015
"Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, 'evangelical Christian' is sometimes a synonym for 'rube.' In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it's safe to mock openly. Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair." So writes Nicholas Kristof in the March 29th New York Times as he begins a narration of the ministry of Dr. Stephen Foster, a medical missionary who has brought hope and healing to thousands on behalf of the love of Christ.
Dr. Foster is but one of countless Evangelical Protestants whose devotion to their Lord has animated a life of anonymous service, often at great sacrifice. There is no way to capture the many believers whose dedication to the good news of Jesus Christ has driven them to give up virtually all the world has to offer in exchange for an as-yet unknown city (Hebrews 11:10-16). In this short piece, I thought I'd note just three of those I know personally.
Deveraj (he goes by his last name) rescues women and girls from sex trafficking in one of the seamiest and filthiest places in the world, the "red light" district of Mumbai (Bombay), India. He has an AIDS clinic, runs an orphanage, and operates a large recovery home for women delivered from bondage and for their children. At this latter home, Ashragram, ("The Village of Hope"), "the women have an opportunity to start new lives in a protected environment of love, and receive education and job training in the hope that they can become productive members of society. Those that cannot move on because of psychological or physical trauma have a permanent home at Ashagram."
Deveraj seeks no glory and gets little. I have been with him when he has stood between me and an angry group of Indian traffickers, upset because I had prayed with their "girls" instead of purchasing their services. I've worshipped with him in his AIDS clinic. And I've hosted women he has gotten out of trafficking on Capitol Hill, introducing them to people who want to learn more about their journey from darkness to light.
Brave and humble, Deveraj is “a bond-servant of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1). I want to be like him.
Lt.Col. (ret) Dave Treadwell served two tours in Vietnam and holds the Silver Star, two awards of the Legion of Merit, and two awards of the Bronze Star. Many persons of Dave's standing, upon leaving the military, go to work for defense or aerospace firms where they employ their training and expertise in the private sector.
Dave heard a different call. In the nearly 30 years since he left the military, Dave has served with the Christian Legal Society, Advocates International and, for the past 17 years, the Central Union Mission (CUM). CUM's mission is to "glorify God by proclaiming the Gospel and meeting the needs of hungry, hurting and homeless individuals and families in the Washington Metropolitan Area."
Dave and his team fulfill this calling every day for men and women the world just wants to pretend don’t exist. Because of Dave and his colleagues, not only do they exist – they learn to thrive.
Jim Walker sat in a Bible class I used to teach for months, if not years, never speaking but always listening. I knew he served in the military but his unassuming manner betrayed the stature of his service: senior military attorney for the United States Marine Corps. When Brigadier General James Walker spoke in the Pentagon, people listened.
When Jim left the Marines, he asked about ideas I might have concerning future service. I put him in touch with my friend Ken Isaacs of Samaritan's Purse, and today Jim leads SP's "Heal Our Patriots" ministry. Heal Our Patriots “gives wounded veterans and their spouses the opportunity for spiritual refreshment, physical renewal, and marriage enrichment. Couples participate in Biblically-based seminars that help strengthen their relationships with God and others and enjoy the beauty of God's creation with outdoor activities at our Alaskan wilderness lodge."
Jim and his delightful bride of 35 years, Nancy, are now serving a group of men and women deeply wounded, physically and emotionally, by the trauma of war. I’m honored to know them.
American Evangelicals have, since the earliest days of our country, served the most needy and sacrificed of their lives, hearts, and treasure to show, in tangible but usually quiet ways, the love of a living Savior to people here at home and around the world. Evangelicals, derided and misunderstood -- in part because they won't budge on issues of biblical morality -- have represented and lived a Cross-filled life without fanfare or acclaim.
Perfect, always tactful, up on all the latest cultural phenomena? No. But knowing their audience is the God of the universe keeps them going, and keeps them loving even their most vicious critics, again and again. Paul the apostle says it best in the first chapter of his first letter to the church in Corinth:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe ... God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."