Friday, November 19, 2010

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Prayer

Each week I update the bulletin for my church. Earlier this year, we began to include updates on the efforts of our missionaries on the back page. I typically update this section every month as we receive prayer letters. This past week, I received a prayer letter from our missionaries in the Dominican Republic/Haiti. They are Wesley and Melina Lane and I wanted to include a portion of their prayer letter as their battle to share the gospel in this area of the world is fierce and they need prayers desperately:

“Dear Friends, Psalm 91:5,6 says, "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday." The whole Island of HispaƱiola needs the comfort of these verses right now. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and disease continue to take their toll on the population, the churches, and the Christians here. Hurricane Tomas passed far out to the west of Port-au-Prince, giving mostly heavy rains, with the worst affected areas on the far western tips of the peninsulas far away from any news crews. There was local flooding in Port-au-Prince and the mud made the tents camps miserable. Fortunately the high winds and heaviest rains mostly affected sparsely populated areas.

As of this writing, the death toll in Haiti from the cholera outbreak has topped 1000, with more the 14,000 hospitalized and the epidemic has now reached the Port-au-Prince area. Thousands are hospitalized and no one really knows what the future holds for this outbreak. In many areas sanitation is very primitive or non-existent. The cholera outbreak has caused the frontier areas to be subjected to violence and new restrictions. This affects our ministry because we cross the border on a regular basis. I personally know the official in charge of the Jimani crossing and he has informed me that if I take my truck into Haiti, I cannot bring it back until the outbreak is declared over. In spite of reports like these, there is still some cross border traffic.

Fortunately, none of our church people have been directly affected so far. This outbreak is expected to take as long as a year to contain and some people feel that it is inevitable that is will spill over into the Dominican Republic. If it does, the political/social results will be unpredictable, but they won't be good in any case. These two countries have a long history of strained relations, sometimes escalating to armed conflict. Most Haitians living in the Dominican Republic are illegal and the situation parallels the illegal immigration problem in the USA in many aspects. In past times of stress, there are two recorded massacres of the Haitians in which thousands were simply slaughtered. There are still occasional outbursts of anti-Haitian violence in which dozens are killed, usually triggered by an act of crime by a Haitian against a Dominican, but these are generally kept out of the media.

I am sure upon reading this letter your reaction was similar to mine – we have no idea what suffering for the sake of the gospel means in this country. The Lane family is putting their life on the line every time they share the gospel in a place that has been recently leveled by natural disaster, further perpetuating the internal conflict that has been raging between the two countries for a long time. But still the Lane’s press on and urge us to pray for them and their ministry.

So often, it is easy to forget our missionary brothers and sisters because they are so far away which is why we decided to include updates in our bulletin and also on our church website. These people have truly counted the cost of the gospel and have deemed it worthy to sacrifice everything for the sake of Christ. Their reward will be great and we can have a part in that reward by supporting them, not with just our money but with our prayers and time. At our church, we encourage the body to send letters and emails to the missionaries to let them know that we are thinking of them and praying for them. It means so much for them to hear from us.

I wanted to encourage you to do the same. I know if I was in a foreign country battling even just a few of things that the Lane’s face every day, my spirits would be lifted tremendously to know my fellow Christian friends were praying for me and fighting the battle alongside me. Let’s enter together into their labors and reap eternal glory, "Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:34-38)

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