“It’s just across the way.” At least that’s what it looked like. A two-mile hike just across the way, into a Muslim village skirting the most remote mountain ranges on the continent. A handful of short-term missionaries set their gaze on the wind-blown huts in the distance and started the trail. To their surprise it opened straightway into a deep ravine.
The descent was as kind as the breeze common to the valley, but every step down warned a thousand more back up. They did well considering the violence of a tromp far over a mile high. The group summited breathless, mostly from the climb, but also from the view of the precious little cluster of huts and people before them. This was the moment, the reason they had signed up and sacrificed for the trip. Filled with expectation and gospel, they entered the village.
No conversation, no open doors, no movie magic. They prayed, and they left. Back down the slope. Back home.
Six Years Later
A fresh team of short-term missionaries poured out of the Land Cruiser and caffeinated themselves with mountain air. They, too, embraced the task of heading just across the way to the Muslim village. Into the valley they descended, and with a final push came to rest at the village gate. Rest they did, with the help of Clif bars, oxygen, and some last minute strategy.
Ignoring the meeting, a shepherd girl sweetly greeted them. “Come.” That’s all she said. The tired hikers traced the steps of the tiny girl, so far ahead that she paused before passing out of sight. She led them up, up, up, and into the swallowing black of a hut. As their eyes adjusted with the help of a few embers in the fire pit, the team quickly put together that this was quite the festive gathering. Greeted with kisses to the cheek, they were given seats of honor and rounds of delicacies. It seemed as though the party was for them.
The fun only paused when the father of the home rose to his feet and quieted the room. He expressed how honored he was to have such guests, and then began to share a story. “Four years ago, a man in bright light appeared to me as I slept. He told me to name my son ‘Jesus,’ and that he would send some people to tell me why.” Leaning in for emphasis, he added, “I have been waiting years for you—where have you been?! Now, share with me your message.”
Slowly the messengers formulated words from their dropped jaws and spoke the message the family had been waiting for. When they finished, the man rose to his feet with his whole household, and they all confessed that Jesus alone was God. The team also rose, led a covenantal prayer of faith in Christ, and went their way. Out of the hut, down the valley, and back home with a fine tale.
One Year Later
The village across the way bid another short-term team brave the old gulley. Like those before them, the group set their eyes on the village until the trail demanded concern for each narrow step. It seemed to them nothing could trump the experience of last year, even though the story they had heard about the family seemed too good to be true.
Did the family really believe in Christ? Did they just go back to their old ways? Did they enrage their other villagers? Are we foolish to return to them?
But they went. And thankfully the demand of the climb distracted such thoughts. Appearing just in sight, the village presented itself as usual—no warring tribesman, but also no welcoming party. Quiet.
They reminded themselves why they had come and how they had prepared; all the days studying stories from the Scriptures for strengthening new believers. They found their way to the fabled hut and the family of peace. They were welcomed heartily and began to teach. Amazingly, however, every story they told was interrupted—the family already knew them all by heart.
The team gladly said nothing as the father gave explanation. In the past year, he had been taught by a local believer. He had then shared those stories to everyone in the village at their weekly communal gathering: the Friday mosque. The people of village, he continued, had all chosen to follow Christ as well.
Delightfully dumbfounded, the short-termers gave up on their storytelling. That is, until one of them began encouraging the family to continue carrying out the Great Commission. Interrupted once more, the father shared how they had already taken the stories of Jesus to an even more remote village across the way. That village had believed too.
The team just chuckled with wonder, all the way home.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.