December 15, 2017
As we set off from RDU airport in early October, I knew this trip, my fourth trip to work with the incredible South Sudanese people, would be a little different. I was making this trip with three of my closest friends and brothers in Christ from my small group who had heard me talk about South Sudan and the people in Eastern Africa for three years, each of whom has their own story of how God led them to be used for his good work. For two of them, it was their first trip ever out of the U.S., and for all three, their first time to Africa. But God calls us to be fishers of men even to the ends of the earth, so off we went to fish.
For nearly 10 months, our team of six prayed consistently for God to prepare the hearts of the people who would hear the good news of the gospel, some for the very first time, so that lives and future generations could be changed. For we know the “harvest is plentiful” and “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power.” But little did we know that—as we’ve constantly seen here at The Summit Church—God would do much more than we could have ever hoped or imagined.
We hear around the Summit that there are billions of people in the world who have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ, something that is very difficult for us Americans to comprehend or even believe is true. But this is true, and we encountered it on this trip. One of the people groups we met in the refugee camp in Northern Uganda (where many South Sudanese have fled due to civil war) shed tears as they professed belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, sharing with us that they knew there was a God because of what they saw in creation (bringing to life what Paul says in Romans 1) but that they were hearing this gospel story for the first time. I cannot adequately describe what it feels like seeing the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of people as they come to a true conviction that they are sinners who are in desperate need of Jesus Christ, just like I am, just like us all.
The amazing thing about Empower One, the sending organization I work with and with whom the Summit partners, is they support and empower the local pastors and leaders to be used as they, the local pastors, see fit. Empower One exists to help African believers reach the 20 million people in that region of the world who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters in Africa have the same goal we do: to see God glorified and worshiped by every tribe, nation, and tongue.
As John Piper says, worship is the ultimate goal of missions. There is only one response when you are humbled by the reality of how inadequate you really are, when you hear pastors and leaders from a different culture preach as eloquently as any western pastor, when you witness the names of 221 people called out to be baptized in the Nile River, when you are vividly reminded that you did nothing to earn your salvation and Jesus paid it all and has won the victory for a sinner like you: worship—broken, helpless, sincere worship of the one true God who has done everything necessary to save you. When this is your experience, you desire to live in response to what he has done for you.
So yes, this trip was a little different for me because of the time I was able to spend with my close friends and experience with them the power and awesomeness of God. But, it was also the same as any other trip I’ve been on when you are focused on explicitly sharing the gospel: worshipping and praising God in remembrance of his salvation and redemption. Our team witnessed God save many lives on this trip, and I am thankful that he uses broken, sinful vessels like me to make his name great. I would humbly encourage you to pray, sincerely, to be open to be used by God, no matter what he calls you to do, no matter where he calls you to go.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1 ESV)
By Carl Chaney