I often tell people of the ten reasons I am a Southern Baptist three of those reasons are the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
The opportunity we have as thousands of autonomous churches and millions of individuals to financially invest in carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth through the mechanism of the International Mission Board is an unparalleled opportunity. Though I have been giving to this offering for as long as I can remember, my wife and I had an opportunity a few years ago to be on the other side of the giving to see our collective dollars work in the context of faithful mission.
We have a personal connection to a missionary family in Southeast Asia and have had the opportunity to come alongside them on two separate occasions in recent years. On our most recent visit we were invited to join in a day with the “water pot” project.
A platform for this missionary family and others is to distribute individual water filtration systems to households for water purification. One day we went into a village where water pots had previously been distributed alongside a booklet that explained the gospel. We were told that many households may be Christian and were needing follow-up encouragement, but to not forsake the opportunity to share the gospel. (One should also note the very accessible metaphors available with a water pot filtration system in sharing the good news).
Suburbia in this Southeast Asian village looked a little different than suburban Atlanta. There were no cul-de-sacs or two-story cookie cutter homes. Instead, there were various bamboo, wooden, thatched dwellings, a water ditch, bridges to the domiciles, and smoke from cooking fires. The only parallels to suburban Georgia were the plentiful red clay and the humidity.
The population of this village is made up of people from one of the five largest unreached people groups in the world. As we went about this follow-up survey, we entered one home. The man of the house waited outside as we went inside to speak with an older gentleman, a few women, a teenage boy, and a couple of little ones. As we spoke through a local translator, it wasn’t long before the older man commented, “We would like to become Christians, but we have been waiting on someone to tell us how.”
Mine and my wife’s eyes met with the local partner/translator’s with excitement. I began to share the good news as questions and responses came. One said, “We thought Jesus was an American God, we didn’t know He was for everyone.”
I then quickly turned to passages that spoke of His blood being shed for the purification of people from every tribe, nation, and tongue which were read aloud either by our friend or by the teenage boy. The response was of peaceful hunger. That day, each person in the home trusted the One Who came to redeem people from all nations, tribes, and tongues. When we exited the home, I was able to introduce them to the local man who would be their pastor.
As we talked with the man who waited outside the home he remarked to the pastor, “My wife has become a Christian; I probably will come with her to church.” It was much to our joy over a year later to see a few faces we recognized from that home in pictures of a local gathering in that village.
So, what does it take to get to the other side of the world?
Well, we left our front door, drove to the airport, rode a shuttle to the terminal, rode the “plane train” to our gate, boarded a plane, flew for nearly twenty hours, had a lay-over, rode another shuttle, boarded another plane, were picked up by our friends, took a taxi to a train station, met a missionary in a van, parked, rode an ATV, and walked to where we found ourselves at the front door of people who God was calling to Himself from another people group. I am often in awe of how complex yet how simple that journey is.
Our dollars undergo a similar journey from change or a check in an offering plate to local currency in countries where ATMs and electronic transfers are rare. It is obviously easier for the dollars to make the journey than ourselves. However, both are necessary.
This “water pot” project was almost exclusively funded by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The opportunity we had to meet our dollars in the door of people from an unreached people group was made possible by the generous giving of Great Commission minded Southern Baptists. The meeting we had and the transformation that took place in the hearts of people who dwelt in the heart of that village would not be possible without our personnel on the field, the faithful work of local partners, and the prayers and offerings of people who populate our pews.
In fact, the missionary who drove the van commented to me on the way to the village, “You cannot do what we do and not be thankful for the American church.”
So, Southern Baptists, let’s give, and let’s give generously.
I had a pastor in my formative years who had determined along with his wife that they would never spend more on Christmas presents and celebration than they would give to Lottie Moon. Let us challenge ourselves similarly to give sacrificially.
Pastors (everyone, but especially pastors), let’s go. Pack your bags. Go to the field. Encourage our partners in the gospel. They will be glad to see you, show you and share with you in their work, and you will come home changed. Let us all partner together through prayer and giving to offer the Living Water without price to those in need of a drink from the well that will never run dry.