It had been a long flight from Indianapolis to my destination in the Horn of Africa where I had been invited to be a part of a District Superintendents' and Pastors' Conference. I did not know what to expect when I arrived in this area known for the mighty movement of God despite resistance to the gospel. Granted, stories abounded about the amazing things God was doing there. But I had no idea that I was about to witness a scene from the Book of Acts lived out in the 21st century.
After I arrived, I met World Mission Director Louie E. Bustle and General Superintendent Jesse C. Middendorf and together, we were driven to the Nazarene mission station. There, we met with other church leaders, including Dnaiel Ketchum, director of Nazarene Missions International. According to the general superintendent, a district assembly the day before had concluded with over 12,300 new members received by profession of faith and an increase of about 33,000 in attendance. The district superintendent reported that they had planted nearly 600 churches and indicated a goal to plant 1,000 more churches in the next assembly year. This church multiplication was on my mind as we threaded our way through the sprawling city and finally arrived at the mission station, which had been built by Work and Witness teams.
We were briefed on our assignments and on what we could expect during the conference.
Although I was prepared academically, I was not prepared emotionally for what I was about to experience.
Two hundred and twenty-four pastors attended the conference. Evening services were open to anyone who wanted to attend. For many of the pastors, transportation involved walking for nearly two weeks to be a part of this event. One pastor walked for 13 days in order to be a part of the event, but arrived several days late. He apologized to his district superintendent then quickly explained the reason for his late arrival. En route to the conference, he had planted five churches and would appoint a leader in each of the churches on his way home.
I have never witnessed such joy, singing, praising, and praying in all of my life as I rejoiced with my brothers and sisters in Christ there in the Horn of Africa. When I learned of the hardships and the persecution that many of them experience, it was not easy for me to speak on my assigned subjects of education, humility, and servanthood. During the final service, a national missionary presented the message from Acts 2 concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill and empower the lives of the believers. The power of those words from the day of Pentecost to the present examples, was deeply moving. What an incredible worship time it was.
As the service came to what I expected to be the close, the missionary said there was one final item needing attention. Speaking in regard to the International Church of the Nazarene, he shared how we were all family and needed each other. He reminded his listeners how blessed they were in receiving help for many years from the denominational leaders who sent missionaries to share the love of Jesus Christ. The speaker informed them that the denomination's General Board had voted to build a much-needed Global Ministry Center, which would be of great benefit in helping to spread this message of salvation.
Then, the missionary challenged audience members to empty their pockets so they could be active participants in this important project. Those of us who were guests had no idea that this offering was going to be taken. When the gifts were counted, they had $181 (U.S.) and one wristwatch. I wept. The next day, I left as a changed person. I'll never be the same, for I saw the Book of Acts lived out before me. My Christian family had been extended by meeting and worshipping with my brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa. Their faith in giving to something they saw as bigger than themselves was unforgettable.
Ted R. Lee is superintendent of the Indianapolis District.
Editor's Note: Construction of the Global Ministry Center is in progress. Once completed, the Church of the Nazarene International Headquarters will relocate to that site.
Holiness Today, Sept/Oct 2007