God: Glorious, Merciful, and Gracious
God’s character has nothing to do with circumstance. I think I knew that (in my head), but God continues to remind me by showing me this.
Two weeks ago, I went with a volunteer group to a Novrus celebration. This is a holiday celebrated by people mainly in Muslim countries, and this particular celebration was held at an evangelical Christian church to reach out specifically to migrant workers from Tajikistan. The entire celebration was in Farsi, but two Christian Tajiks spoke and shared the gospel in Farsi. Less than 1% of Tajikistan believes the gospel, and it was incredible seeing an entire sanctuary full of Tajiks hearing the gospel in their own language, when as far as I know, almost 100% of them are here temporarily, and will be going back to this very dark place knowing about an eternal hope that almost the entire country doesn’t know.
God’s character was evident in this situation: God mercifully has sent His son to take the punishment for the sins of these men, and ours. He is patient with our sin and ignorance, as he has been waiting for over 2000 years so that more might come from death into life. He graciously let me and the group witness and be involved in the mystery of saving lost souls. What grace!
Life here has been in extremes. Either I’m witnessing or engaging in something really intense, or it’s just the normal life of working 9-5, going home and going to bed. Just like life elsewhere, there are good and bad times. Igor, the Russian that I work with, said with the little English he knows, “Jake, you must be lonely. Everyone here has family, you have no one.” It’s probably for the best he’s not fluent in English, or he probably would have felt bad about saying that. It’s also difficult considering, aside from the team, I’m virtually incapable of communication. You wouldn’t believe how many times you need to communicate until you can’t, and the psychological and physiological ramifications of knowing you can’t communicate with anyone are pretty profound. Scheduling has been a bit of a struggle, as it seems that I get tired very easily (possibly due to the previous issue), and there seem to be many goals that I have for my days. Also, as some of you have heard, I’ve found it very difficult to cook food for some reason here. I’m certainly not trying to wallow in pity, but it’s certainly not as much of a vacation as I thought it might be.
However, God’s character is also evident in these situations: God’s graciously blessed me with many families and peers that seem to be spending a lot of time and energy trying to mitigate my loneliness, while still giving me time to spend in reflection. He’s given me a very talented and affordable Russian tutor, and even though in reality I probably don’t know much more than I did two weeks ago, I’m no longer intimidated out of going grocery shopping (praise God!). He has personally given me the strength to be productive despite many things going on, and finally, last night I made a successful meal! He is clearly a patient God, not always letting me experience the natural consequences of my sin. He is a gracious God, giving me many things here that I certainly don’t deserve. He is a loving and personal God, who is actually actively involved in my sanctification, and who wants it even more than I do.
While the normal day-to-day life isn’t what makes the presses in most cases, reminders of God’s character is littered throughout it. I am learning (still) that if I don’t care about telling people about the beautiful and profoundly personal attributes of our Father in the states, I won’t care about it abroad. God’s character isn’t better in certain circumstances and worse in others; it’s always amazing and the more we know it the more we want other people to know about it.
God is worth all of our attention and energy. Praise Him for loving us enough to share Himself with us. For sending His son to experience our deserved punishment, so that we might experience Him. For those wondering how I’m doing, well… it is well with my soul. Circumstances are sometimes incredible, and sometimes discouraging. However, the Father is consistently the sweetest experience and relationship I will ever encounter.