Abby and Luke
Last year, some friends serving in a neighboring country shared their family’s ministry motto, and just so you know, I am unabashedly stealing it for the next few paragraphs. They said, “We want to make ourselves knowable so that Jesus can become meetable.” Granted, they may have stolen that phrase too, but hey… it’s one worth passing along. Let me explain.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been given a great privilege and responsibility to proclaim the Gospel among our own hometowns and to the ends of the earth. As we celebrate Epiphany, our Savior being revealed as the long-awaited King, we remember that He did so in a most mysterious way. To our Muslim-majority host culture, the idea that God would choose to clothe Himself in frail, fragile flesh and walk among us is an outrageous idea… blasphemous even. The great offense of the Incarnation and the Cross can only be overcome by one thing… meeting Jesus.
We bear His name and His message, but until we are known by the neighbors we love and serve, they will not hear us. “We want to make ourselves knowable so that Jesus can become meetable.” And so begins the messy, unpredictable work of ministry. For our family of seven living in North Africa, this can take many forms, but allow me to share two examples of what it has looked like recently.
As our family celebrated Christmas this year (not just one day but all twelve!), my wife, Abby, had extended an invitation to one of her closest and oldest local friends to feast with us in our home. The invitation was graciously accepted, and we made plans to host her family. The issue, however, is that in this culture, most plans tend to be vague, tentative, and extremely fluid. What this meant for us was that we had come up with a meal plan that would be palatable to our local culture and be ready to welcome them into our home on whatever day they are able to come with very little forewarning! It also meant that we had no idea how many people were going to show up. The friend and her three kids? Her father, mother, and siblings? What about her house-helper… her ex-husband? We would have no idea (and neither would they) until they knocked on our door. Life is lived one day at a time here, and it is lived together as a community. We want to be known by our community so that we can introduce them to our Savior, and the only way to do that is to be (often) radically flexible and uncomfortably transparent. By the way, they did come (along with her mother and house-helper) and a beautiful time was had by all!
I (Luke) also had a unique opportunity just this past week. Over a year ago, I was befriended by two young Muslim men and had the opportunity to hangout with them on a couple of occasions. Having recently returned to our country of service, one of the guys reached out to me and invited me to his family’s home outside the city. Based upon past experience, I knew that this was no simple ask and an adventure was sure to ensue. I wasn’t wrong. What turned into a full 12-hour visit included meeting several new family members, exploring a massive outdoor market nearby, standing back while the police impounded several motorcycles (including my friend’s) for expired papers, subsequently picking my friend up at the police station, and having more cups of tea/coffee than I can count over the course of the day. Why would someone willingly walk into a day like this with eyes wide open? Simply because I need to become knowable so that Jesus can be meetable.
You see, Christ gave Himself freely so that we may know God and make Him known to those who have not yet met Him… or even heard His name. Do you know what is almost as baffling as the One who spoke the world into existence becoming a little baby and dying on a cruel cross and leaving behind an empty grave? It is that He would carry such a message of forgiveness, hope, and reconciliation in leaky vessels like us. Is the task intimidating? Yes. Are people messy? Ditto. But is Jesus worth it? Absolutely.