They Threw Rocks

 

“They threw rocks.”

That was his response to my question when I asked, “How did the people respond when you started a church here?”—“They threw rocks.” The small, bamboo structure with a tin roof made a perfect target for rocks. It is located in a poor, rough-looking neighborhood. There were no Christians here when Pastor Shwe began his ministry to reach the lost.

Despite this, the pastor was undaunted and was encouraged by evangelist Aih Kham Goh (also supported by White Fields) and our Field Director Pastor Thawng to continue on. So the pastor came, and when he would gather the people together into the church house to hear about Jesus, the neighbors would throw rocks. But those who had come to listen continued to attend, drawn by Pastor Shwe and his family’s zeal for Christ. After a year and a half, people began coming to Christ.

Our Fields Director indicates how the people dug the well by hand - 90' deep.

Our Fields Director indicates how the people dug the well by hand – 90′ deep.

Pure Clean Water given for free to their neighbors.

Pure Clean Water given for free to their neighbors.

One of the first things these new believers wanted to do was dig a well. You see, in this neighborhood there are no utilities. No electricity, no sewer, no water, and very few homes have a source for clean water. So they dug one—90 feet deep—by hand. They installed the well and when it was completed, they did the unexpected. They offered the fresh, clean water for free. The neighbors stopped bringing rocks to throw and instead brought their buckets because they wanted to receive the fresh, clear water. Giving this fresh, clean water caused more people to desire to hear about the living water, Jesus Christ. The compassion and generosity of the people who had received Christ began to shine a light in this dark place and they have become a testimony to the whole neighborhood.

Rivers of Living Water
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

 

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The people crowded in the small church house.

The people crowded in the small church house.

The morning that I was there preaching, one of the former rock-throwers was sitting in the front row of the service with a Bible in his lap. The pastor shared with me, “This man is very close to becoming a Christian. He has been listening to the Bible stories and has been studying the Bible with us.” And that morning he was sitting there with his Christian neighbor who was helping him find the passages so he could follow along as we were preaching from the Bible.

By God’s grace, there is a vibrant body of believers now. Even the young people are serving with joy. These three young girls, who are middle-school-aged, were helping the women serve the Christmas meal. The one on the right is currently in baptism classes. Their families have come to Christ and now they serve together reaching their neighbors with the love of Jesus.IMG_0353

Rocks are no longer being thrown. Instead, people—young and old—are being transformed because these new converts shine the light of Jesus Christ, overcoming the darkness!

Perseverance and courage might come to your mind when you stop and think about the environmental conditions and social climate into which this humble servant of the Lord entered. In the country where he serves it is illegal to witness to people in public. Instead, you must invite a person into your house—or hope for an invitation into theirs. Only then are they able to, legally, share the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, even then, they still face the potential of rejection and persecution.

Now, stop and think about trying to live in this poor and dangerous community…the only way to share about Jesus is to invite people into your bamboo shack. To gather in worship draws attacks and stone throwing.  It takes time to demonstrate a faith that endures. It took time for the neighbors to transform from throwing rocks, to receiving physical water, and then to hearing the message of the living water. At first they didn’t even want to enter into the church house, seeing the dissent of the rough crowds and wondering what kind of religion this man might be pushing. That is why White Fields provides the salary and financial support to the initial stages of this ministry. By supporting this pastor and his family we instill courage knowing that a great body of prayer warriors are standing with them.

Whole families are coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ because Pastor Shwe stuck it out. He would give credit to the answers of prayers because the Lord sustained him with perseverance and courage to stay.  As the Psalmist could say, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.“ (Psalm 3:5-6 ESV).  Now the church house is full and they need a larger place.

rough road

The road into the village is rough. It is a hard place to live.

Just how rough is this neighborhood? When we were leaving the area I was discussing the unsightly elements with our Field Director Thawng.  He mentioned to me that if people in the city need to hire a murderer, they come to this town to find a criminal to do the job. This church is truly a lighthouse shining in a dark place.

I hope this conveys even a small picture of what church-planting entails. It can be lonely, dangerous, and sometimes even combative. The indigenous pastor is extremely suited by our Lord to reach his own people. Pastor Shwe is an example of how God has placed the right man in the right place and fitted him with the armor to take the gospel to the lost and needy people of this community.  And, I hope you see clearly the need for intercessory prayer for these dear men and their families who are serving the Lord.

neighborhood

The people are very poor and live humbly. The pastor and his family are seeking to transform this community with the love of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul knew the struggle to preach the gospel in the face of opposition. His request to the members of the church in Colossae is a good reminder to us for how we can come alongside and assist our brothers in the battle: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4 ESV)

 

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