Following the drama of arrests, trials and acquittal, our attention was now focused on developing leaders for the fellowship, a long and difficult task.
If you take the average person who comes to Christ from a working or middle class background in the western part of the world, they are at what I call ground zero in their lives. They are definitely in need of a Savior but are able to function pretty well in every day life.
In contrast, most of the believers in our little fellowship had come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many were fringe people who didn’t fit well into society to start with. This meant that instead of starting at zero, they were at what I judged to be minus twenty-two!
There were seemingly endless things they had to learn relationally, emotionally, intellectually, economically and spiritually in order to come to a reasonably healthy place in life.
The fact that many of these early believers were from the fringes of society was not surprising. They were the people who had little to lose in becoming a follower of Christ. Solid working class or middle class people risked the loss of jobs, families and positions if they were to leave the local religion and become followers of Jesus.
One example of one such person was Abraham. He as a fourteen-year old high school dropout when we met him. His mother was the second wife, meaning his father had two wives at the same time, one legal, one not. And this meant that Abraham’s family got only “scraps” of time and money from the father.
When Abraham’s mother became a believer, the father completely abandoned the family of five children, age sixteen down to two year old twins. At the time Abraham was working as an apprentice for a glazier, a very low paying, basically dead end job.
However, he was open to spiritual things and after accepting the Lord, he proved to be a “thirsty” disciple. He began having a regular quiet time and pursued input from several of us.
Then he took a very significant step: he forgave his father for all the pain, rejection and abandonment he’d given Abraham and his siblings.
To forgive is absolutely antithetical to both the culture and religion of this country. To forgive is viewed as a weakness. If you are hurt, you cut off the relationship and nurture hatred for that person for the rest of your life. Abraham , however, rejected his culture in favor of a biblical worldview. Forgiving his father set him free from the past and shot him ahead both spiritually and practically.
He went back to high school while continuing to work part time to help support his mother and sisters. He became one of the leaders of the church plant, the youngest and in the end the most mature of the original members. By the time he was nineteen, he had become one of the elders.
After graduating from high school, Abraham set his sights on a university education. However, in the educational system in the country, in order to enter university, you had to pass a very difficult test that is designed to keep people out. The score you got on this test determined what subject you would study and what school you would attend. You could state your preference, but without a very high score, you had very little chance of getting your wish.
Everyone goes to special tutoring schools for one or two years to prepare for this exam but Abraham had neither the money nor the time to do that. Instead he studied on his own while working full-time and serving as a leader in the church.
When he got the results of his exam, we all rejoiced with him, for he not only got the subject he wanted to study–graphic arts–but would study at the university he wanted, right in his home city! It was a miracle that flowed from Abraham’s valuing and obeying God’s Word and from doing his part in diligent preparation.
He went on to graduate second in his class and then married the girl was first in the class and whom he had led to the Lord. He became a published artist, an assistant pastor and later the director of the national children’s ministry as well as a church planter. All this was accomplished by a boy who, by every appearance, had been condemned to a life of mediocrity and poverty. When a life is surrendered to God, He lifts it up in every area.
There were others who also persisted in obeying the Lord, abandoning their natural worldview for a biblical one and they are also are now leaders in churches and ministries. Transformation comes on every level when we surrender to Him.
Picture: Abraham’s mother with Barbara