About 50 years ago, my grandparents served in a tribe in Brasil. That was their home, with four little kids, and a community of indigenous people. They knew none of the language at first, but over the years made some good friendships, and poured their lives into their neighbors. As I've been here the past few months, I think about what it must have been like for my grandma. Away from home--farther than ever--with little kids. I wonder how often she wanted to ask her mom, "What's that recipe again?" "What do I do when my child hits this stage?" Or even just the chance to reconnect with her parents and siblings. Mail came every few months, and the news was old by the time it arrived.
Most days, I am grateful for the easy connection to "home" that the internet brings. Not only to home, but to friends I have dispersed around the world. I know that "555" means "LOL" in Thailand and "jaja" is laughter in Spanish. I know that my friend is having a really hard week in the tribe in Indonesia, and that another friend has been able to leave her country of ministry to visit some other friends. But this week has been a difficult week to be "connected" to the outside world.
Tuesday one of my great-aunts passed away, who I was blessed to know. My grandma made up a song for her and taught it to my mom, who taught it to me, and I taught it to my cousin's kids so they could sing it to her. She was faithful to write letters & keep me updated on how life was on the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line. But aside from all the silly songs and the letters and the news of which flowers were in bloom--she was praying. She believed in what I am doing here in Paraguay, and prayed for me throughout my training, my time in Mexico, and the process to get to Paraguay. She was faithful.
Today, I lost a friend and a prayer warrior. She turned 89 in February, and I lived with her various times throughout the past 7 years. She was a blessing to have as a friend, and struggled towards the end with her health. My relationship with her fell somewhere between friend and granddaughter, and I will always treasure my time with her. She understood very well what I was doing, and asked questions to understand more. She told me stories about growing up in the South during the 1930's, and introduced me to good Southern food. She had been working in the church nursery for decades, and called people my age "her babies."
While my heart is broken to have lost these two great ladies, I can't help but rejoice. You see, they were both Christians. They are now rejoicing (together!--though they'd never met before this morning!) at the feet of Jesus. They are healthy again after many years of poor health, and freer than ever before from all their earthly burdens. But their deaths remind me of the urgency for why I am here in Paraguay. These ladies were blessed to grow up in a country where there is freedom of religion and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in their language.
I think of two things--one, I have lost two prayer warriors. Who will stand up to take their place? While my "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) has certainly grown by two, there are two less prayer warriors on this earth.
Secondly, I think of all the people on this earth who are without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. For some, it is illegal in their country; for others, they are removed from a "modern" lifestyle. This is why I am in Paraguay--that in time, when someones great-aunt or "adopted" grandma passes away, someone can say with certainty, "She is in heaven, walking with Jesus Christ."
In the thirty minutes it took to write this post, approximately 1325 unreached people died.* What will you do about it? Will you go to tell them? Will you pray for someone else to go, or for someone who is there ministering? Will you raise your children with the freedom to move to another country to have the privilege to be a part of what God is doing to grow His church?
Take a few minutes to watch this video:
*The number 1325 is taken from biblehelp.org, which estimates 107 people around the world die in one minute. Joshua Project estimates that 41.3% of the world's population is considered unreached. 107 (estimated people dying each minute around the world) x .413 (percentage of unreached people int he world) = 44.191 (people per minute dying around the world, untouched by the Gospel of Jesus Christ) x 30 (the amount of time it took me to write this post) = 1325.73 approximately 30 unreached people who died as I wrote this post.