It has been about two months since Jon Roper and Cindy Yalda’s team arrived in the Middle East. (We go from a Roeper to a Roper this week.) In that time, everything has been new territory in terms of team dynamics and ministry. The five Americans on Jon and Cindy’s team have combined with the UK Impact team (UK version of STINT). Cindy explains, “This is the first year we have had a team from the States come together with a team from the UK under one leadership. It has been a blessing to have the Brits return for a second year because they have us get around the city, find housing, and not have to start ministry from scratch. Among the thirteen of us, we have six cultures represented. We have been told that statistics say that teams with four or more cultures represented are destined for catastrophe. I will have to disagree with that. I did have my doubts, but God has proven to be bigger and more powerful than statistics. Our team dynamics have been a huge witness to the people we have met thus far.”
Cindy goes on to write, “The girls on the team decided to emphasize relational evangelism. In the Middle Eastern cultures, building relationships and trust first is the key to open future doors with conversations about God and spiritual things. We invite all of our contacts over to our place throughout the week, and then hang out until the early hours of the night on Thursdays. We have prayed that God would allow us to have spiritual conversations with everyone that comes on those nights, and that more ‘native language’ speaking would occur. God has gone beyond answering our prayers! We have students from our local congregation who come every week and really interact with our non-believing contacts. We have contacts from last year that have not seemed to be spiritually interested come to our Thursday night gatherings and ask about our beliefs. Every Thursday, we have at least one or two students say that there is something really different about our group. They have all noticed that our group has very different individuals with very different personalities and yet ‘we are able to love one another and work together in a way that is so attractive’. We have heard many times that there is ‘a positive energy that radiates the room’ from our group.”
“We are seeing God break down barriers with students every day. The harvest is ripe in this country, and God has thirteen very different individuals here for a specific reason, which we are seeing unfold every day. The students are truly jealous of what we have. Even though they are blind to the Gospel, God is stirring in their hearts a desire for this relationship with Him that we have. We may not be seeing people come to know Yeshua as their Messiah yet, but we can see God moving. People are more open to talk about God and Yeshua today than compared to two summers ago, when I was here on project. I am excited to see what more God is going to do throughout the year as He brings students closer to knowing Him!”
Cindy’s update made me think of John 13:34, 35. You might recall that Matt spoke at Copper Mountain on this passage of Jesus washing the disciples. In these two verses, Jesus explains why we should love one another.
He commands us to us… That ought to be enough, huh? Our Master had given us a command to love one another. Not a suggestion or a good idea, but a command. As He continues this Upper Room discourse, Jesus says that if we love him, we will obey this command. (John 14:15; 21), we will remain in His love (John 15:10-12) and that we’ll be his friend (John 15:14).
He loved us… It is both how we are to love and the reason behind it. (1 John 4:10-12). He modeled it. He showed us the full extent of his love. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16
Everyone will know we are His disciples… What a testimony Cindy describes that what the world says is impossible – 6 cultures living and working together in harmony – is possible in Christ. Loving each other as Christ loved us says: “This gospel we declare is real. He accepts us in His grace and we accept one another. His love has transformed us. His Spirit has given us life and power. We no longer live for ourselves.”
It’s enough to make anyone jealous.