Love is _________________. How would you fill in the blank? There is certainly no “one word fits all” response, but we plan to explore a number of possibilities during this fall’s Missions Emphasis.
Clearly, the best definition for Love comes from looking at the life of Jesus. 1 John 3:16a declares, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”
The verse continues in 16b: “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Though this has involved physical death for some believers through the ages, the definition is much broader for most of us. This brand of Love means more than warm, compassionate feelings for friends and family; it means, as it did for Jesus, pouring ourselves out for others — those who don’t know Him, the poor, the weak, the stranger or even the enemy.
Many missionaries that we support through your gifts to our Missions Ministry have laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel. I want to tell you about a few of them.
Love is … revealing Christ through our actions.
Jeremy Courtney founded the PreEmptive Love Coalition nearly 10 years ago to assist Iraqi families whose babies were born with heart defects. Jeremy and his staff have become witnesses for Christ in this Muslim country by offering life-saving heart surgery for these children. Their Christian witness has been recognized and warmly received by government officials, religious leaders and the thousands of families who have been given new hope for their children. Now, with the increased violence ISIS has brought to Iraq, PreEmptive Love is offering humanitarian relief and working to restore the lives of those who have lost everything and are living in refugee camps. They are revealing the Love of Christ through their caring and compassionate action.
Love is … being willing to step out in faith.
Amanda Davis, The Woodlands UMC member and a teacher in nearby Klein ISD, stepped out in faith to serve this past year as a high school teacher in a remote location in Tanzania, Africa, with the Christian organization Village Schools International. Amanda’s world changed dramatically. She had to carry water in a bucket from the river for cooking and bathing; start a fire every time she needed to cook; and walk miles to the nearest village for fruit and vegetables and then carry them home in a basket. But Amanda will tell you that it was worth it all to work with African teens who labor night and day at their studies and count it a privilege to secure a better life for themselves and their families. Amanda offered the Love of Christ by stepping out in faith.
Love is … seeing a need and responding with compassion.
Luke Redus and his wife, Karla, were working as an IT manager and schoolteacher, respectively, when their hearts were moved for those living on the streets in Conroe. One Saturday morning, Luke loaded his car with a cooler containing breakfast tacos and drove around town, passing out breakfast and ministering to the homeless. That’s how it all started — with two hearts aching for needy folks within their community and a willingness to help meet the needs. Compassion United is now one of the most effective and thriving homeless ministries in the area. Here are some of the ways they reach those in need: every week, Breakfast in the Park serves meals to hundreds; the Conroe House of Prayer (CHOP) provides worship, Christian teaching, and prayer six days a week; Freedom House (men) and Hosanna House (women) offer a safe place to live and transition from homelessness to wholeness; and Joy House provides shelter, guidance and hope to young girls who are homeless and pregnant.
The Love of Christ is being shared in our area because two people saw a need and took action.
Love is … sacrificing one’s life to save the lost.
Peter and Esther Pereira were born in India, but their parents moved to the United States when they were young. Peter was a pastor, and together he and Esther were raising their family in Chicago. But over the years, God continued to put a burden on their hearts for the lost in India, where 94% of the population is Hindu and literally millions of gods are worshipped. Only 2% of the people know Christ. Sacrificing all they had, they moved to India and founded Hope for Today. This growing ministry includes two orphanages (providing a home, an education and the Good News of the Gospel for children who have been abandoned), the Church Planting Discipleship Movement (which is training young pastors who have now planted over 3000 house churches) and International Leadership Conferences (conducting hundreds of seminars to train Christian leaders). Peter and Esther have sacrificed their lives to offer the Love of Christ.
I could go on and on with stories of men and women who set aside successful careers, personal comfort and financial security to go where God called them. Their circumstances and their ministries may be vastly different, but they have two things in common: they are sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their words and their actions and they are laying down their lives for others. Our church is privileged to support and stand by each of them!
This story first originally appeared in The Point, August & September 2016 edition, issue 11.