We sat in a small church room crammed with people, elbow to elbow. Some old, some young—bound, free, lost, found. As the leader of our trip walked to the front of the room to bring a message, we all held our breath in anticipation. I actually held my breath in fear. What was the message going to be?
Sitnice, Croatia had been visited by others with the message of hope before. They came, they preached, they left, just like we were going to do; and the mark left by previous missionaries to this place was not good at all. Sadly, this can happen when fulfilling the Great Commission. In Matthew 13, the parable of the sower describes how some people receive the truth with a joyful heart, only to have it choked out due to the hardships of life, the promise of riches, lack of understanding, and lack of discipleship. We honor the missionaries that tilled the ground before us, but we realized it was our responsibility to water and till some more.
Still my heart was nervous. How, as a volunteer on a short term mission, could I care for the seeds sown into these hearts? The local Zagreb church leaders had been ministering only a couple of years, discipling and teaching the people well. They didn’t want to see their people hurt again and neither did we. So as the leader of our trip stood in front to bring a message, I held my breath in fear.
A mother nursed her baby in front of me. An 8 year old girl clung to my side, as she had since we met. The man behind me sat alert with excitement for the word to come. What was the message going to be?
“It is finished.”
The beauty of the reality of the Cross. God did not pay the highest price for trash. As we believe on the Son of God—His death and resurrection—it is finished. I am a new creation! You are a new creation! Every person can be a new creation! The Gospel: sins forgiven, love restored, reconciliation, power from on high, the sick healed, transformation, the Cross.
As the sermon ended, our leader asked two questions: Who wants this Gospel? And who needs to be healed? It felt like the whole room stepped forward! Later that night, we learned that 20 people had accepted Jesus as their Savior!
Old, young, bound, free, lost, found. The Cross is what connects us. We all need the Cross. That day, people gave their lives to Christ and people were healed of physical pain; and together we rejoiced.
The Gospel is good news! It is real and produces results. How could I have been afraid? Some sow and some water, but I was forgetting the most important part of the harvest: God gives the increase. God produces the lasting effects of righteousness.
What an amazing time we had with the saints in Croatia! It was such a joy to fellowship and minister with our brothers and sisters across the sea…to see God show up in His power and love, calling the lost home, healing the sick, and setting the captives free.