Darren and Lindsey are leading a team of six in Uppsala, Sweden. After a few bumps along the way (support coming in the final hour, no visas, missing two flights and 17 pieces of luggage) they are hitting the ground running.
Last Friday, at this new student fair, Agape had a table where they handed all 300 of their Freshman Survival Kits in an hour. Of the 214 who filled spiritual interest surveys with a chance to win movie tickets, 56 respond positively about interest in knowing God or being in a Bible Study. There, Darren had a conversation with a student named Per about the historical reliability of the New Testament and the person of Jesus. Per wanted to meet up again and Darren asks us to pray that the Lord will begin a work in his heart with the truth of the Gospel.
On Monday, they will start a coffeehouse ministry using art and other mediums to percolate spiritual discussions. In October, Darren, Lindsey and their team are joining together with other ministries for a week of outreach. It will culminate with a concert and gospel presentation.
As we are beginning the 40 Days of Prayer & Fasting for the Students & Faculty of the World, I thought it might be appropriate these next few weeks to look how leaders respond to prayer and fasting. (I also realize by merely mentioning fasting that I just made Candice reach for another powdered doughnut.)
One such leader is Joel. Joel is one of those Minor Prophets. Like what is that anyway? Is it like a WSN AlmostRD? We Christians hardly read the OT anyway but tag a ‘Minor’ title and you guarantee the pages will remain crisp. Thank goodness Peter and Paul had read Joel.
The people of Joel’s day were facing serious times. Four waves of locusts had devastated the land. The fields were stripped bare. The grain was destroyed. The grapevines, fig trees, pomegranate trees, palm trees and apple trees had all dried up. The barns were empty and the granaries were abandoned. The animals moaned with hunger.
Joel calls for the people to wake up; to see the destruction and despair; to cry, weep, mourn and wail. He announces a time of fasting. (Which if there is no food to eat I guess it was easier to do.) He tells them to blow the ram’s horn and call everyone – old, children, and even babies – to a solemn assembly. Stop the honeymoon. Now is not a time of celebration. Rend your hearts and return to the Lord your God.
Fasting is a time of mourning. It is grieving over things like sin, hopeless situations, and need for deliverance. It is saying that we desire Him and for Him to move even more than we desire our basic needs. It is removing distractions to focus on the heart of God. It is returning to Him. It is an act of desperation.
What if we had the eyes to see? Would the spiritual landscape of our mission field look like the landscape of Joel’s time? Would we see multitudes of people living in fear and hopelessness? Would we hear students of the world crying out from their souls because they thirst and hunger? Would we see our own sinfulness and need for the gospel and cry out in desperation? Would we, as the priests and ministers of the Lord, weep over the lack of joyful celebrations in the house of God and of no grain or wine to offer to Him?
If we saw would we as leaders call others to fast and pray? Joel doesn’t write how long this fast was. It may have been 40 days. It may have been a day. Perhaps too it’s a call to a lifestyle of returning to God with a rent heart as we live in reality of the despair in us and around us.
Joel gives great hope. God will show Himself merciful and compassionate. He is eager to relent and not punish. The land will be green again. The autumn rains will come as well as rains of the spring. The Lord will give back the years the locusts have eaten. This garden of paradise was lost and under a curse but it will be restored. Nations will know that He is the Lord our God and there is no other.
“I will pour out my Spirit on all people… and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”