More than Humbled at the Wonder of the Global Body of Christ

As I cross the miles homeward from the Lausanne Congress, my heart and mind are full.  First in my thoughts, I’ll confess, is an almost giddy eagerness to see Rachel and our four little ones.

Alongside this anticipation swim myriad reflections from an unforgettable week with 4,000+ Christian leaders from virtually every corner of the globe.  What wonder to see the countless shades and colors of skin and clothing, to hear the distinctive languages, tones and rhythms, to learn from the distinctive outlooks on life and world.  The Body is so diverse, yet bound together by the lordship of Christ.

I hope to share at least a few Lausanne reflections over the months ahead, but one reality rises over all the others at this moment.  The phrase “I feel humbled” is perhaps used more frequently in churches than it is meant.  But that sensation crashed against me in Cape Town like the waves on its coastline.  Again and again, I encountered women and men whose faith engulfs and animates their lives in ways that woke in me both wonder and thanksgiving:

  • An Ethiopian doctor and his wife who together oversee the care of 600 orphans—and yearn to draw more and more Ethiopian Christians into caring for these children personally.
  • The wife of Tom Little, an American whose life was taken in the mountains of Afghanistan after the couple had spent 30 years providing medical care in that country.
  • A young pastor from the underground church in China, who’s yielded a promising career for a path in which his financial situation, freedom and perhaps very life are continually at risk.
  • An Indian doctor who left a lucrative specialist practice to show the love of Christ in medical care to his poorest countrymen, and has been doing so for 20 years.

Countless more examples could be given.   But one moment particularly stands out.  After a short night’s sleep and long morning of presentations, I’ll confess the speaker in front seemed to be droning on.  His words felt a bit stale: doctrinally solid but uninspiring, a repetition of basic truths I’ve heard all my life.

As he headed toward his conclusion, though, the African pastor gave just a small window into the reality he faces daily.  In the past few years, several of his close friends and fellow pastors had been killed by militant Muslims.  A crowd, coming to his house to kill him, found only his wife; they beat her in a way that left her totally blind for 6 months.  The threat of death is ever present for them both.   And, alongside it, lurk the subtle but costly discrimination, insults, and other struggles many Christians face daily in Muslim nations.

As I heard all this, I repented of my “I’ve heard it before” apathy and arrogance.  A realization boomed like thunder:  it was nothing other than the simple, well worn, pedestrian-seeming truths this pastor had been relating that were for him of sufficient beauty and power to impel a life of awe-inspiring sacrifice.

I pray that I may always find this same compelling force in the simple, time-worn truths that so evidently nourish this man and his wife, and so many others I encountered in Cape Town.