Friends in Far Off Places

I've been thinking a lot lately about my long distance friends, some very special people that I have met in my travels and mission work. Some of my friends have a tough time keeping in touch. Even in this cyber age, many people still lack the resources or opportunities to communicate freely. But I cannot forget them. They are etched on my heart for good. Let me introduce you to a few of my far off friends.

This is Obed. I met him in Pretoria, South Africa. He is starting a new church in the village where he was born. Obed is bright and gifted, with a quiet dignity and grace unusual for a man barely in his 20's. I wonder about Obed's health. Like nearly 50% of South Africa's population, he is HIV positive. When I first met Obed, he and his wife had just lost their baby girl to illness. I tried to comfort him, but there were no good words to say. I prayed with Obed asking God to heal his heart and comfort his young wife. I think about Obed and I pray for him. I promised I would.

This is my friend, Rustam. He and his beautiful family live in Kiev, Ukraine. Rustam started a new house church in an apartment building. Each week, about 35 people crowd into a small apartment, most in their 20's and 30's, to worship and study and share life together. The official church will not recognize Rustam's church because he does not follow the old traditions, the women do not cover their heads, etc. He faces a very difficult task with almost no support and nothing but criticism from those who should be his biggest cheerleaders.

I worshiped with Rustam and his little community of faith one evening. I was touched by their warmth and acceptance. Their praise was heartfelt and their testimonies and prayers were passionate and real. The Gospel was presented with power and the presence of the Holy Spirit was unmistakable. Afterwards Rustam seemed very eager to hear my evaluation, so anxious to hear some expression of approval for the remarkable moving of God among his people. I said, "Rustam, I think we need 1,000 more churches in this city just like this one."

His eyes filled with tears but the look on his face was sheer joy, just to hear someone, anyone, say out loud what God was saying in such obvious ways. This is a real church if I have ever seen one, Acts 2 come to life. God bless you, Rustam. I pray for 1,000 more just like you.


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