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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–There are days that help keep life in perspective, that remind us of how blessed we really are.

The day this week that I held my 18-year-old daughter in my arms and welcomed her back from a summer of missions in the Middle East was one such day. Amy is such a brave and beautiful Christ-follower. I took her with me on a mission trip there last year and she fell in love with those wonderful people so deeply in need of the love and peace of Christ.

She spent a part of her time this year caring for the children of our SBC missionaries from two countries so that they could have rare time to themselves. Then she joined a team of college students on a mission to share the Good News and distribute New Testaments to Muslims who might otherwise never hear the Gospel. It was bold, it was New Testament risky living –- and it was led by an amazing friend of mine, Gary.

Gary and his wife, Bonnie, once served as missionaries in one of the most dangerous cities in the Middle East. They literally lived next to one of al Qaeda’s chief training grounds. And one day, as she entered a clinic to care for Muslim women, Bonnie was shot and killed by a terrorist.

Just a few weeks later Gary stood in the pulpit of the church in Georgia where I was pastor and said to our people, “I have no possessions, no home, no car, no wife, but I have Jesus and He is the rock upon which I stand.” It was a moment none of us who were there will ever forget.

Last New Year’s Eve I presided at the marriage of Gary to a wonderful young woman, and God has blessed them with a new life together. And this summer he led the team my daughter was a part of -– back to the same city where his former wife was killed!

Amy described the scene to me. Gary began to preach outside, very near the place where Bonnie was murdered. A crowd gathered and people began to whisper in amazement that Gary had returned. He shared the Gospel and then led the students in a song –- a song you may know. Here’s a sample:

Blessed be Your name

On the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out

I’ll turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in, Lord

Still I will say

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Blessed be the Name

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Blessed be Your glorious Name

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say

Lord, blessed be your Name

Can you imagine that? As they sang they were the voice of Jesus to those people -– bringing forgiving love into the darkness of terrorism. Now let me ask you this -– is there any environment you will face today that could be remotely as difficult to share the Gospel? And if the Gospel can be Good News there, surely it can be where you live. And it really is Good News. People are so open. But if you don’t view life as a mission trip, you will miss most of those people in the hurry of your day.

Recently I said goodbye to my daughter again. This time I took her to Liberty University, where she is beginning college. It seems we just got her back, and she is off again. But that has always been our goal as parents –- to prepare our children well and then release them on mission into the world. And that is God’s goal for his children –- for us. It’s time for us to “graduate” from the pews into the lives of people who need Jesus, but who will never come unless we go.

Sweet Amy, you have called me your hero before. Well, you are my hero now!

The world will be a better place with Amy out in the midst of it bringing Jesus everywhere she goes. Why don’t we all join her, Southern Baptists, out there in the world that is easier for us to oppose than love –- and let’s make evangelism good news again!
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board

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  • John Avant