As I speak to many of my dear Christian brethren about the Lord's call on our lives to go labor in His harvest field in Gambela, Ethiopia, I am often told that we have lost souls right here on our own doorstep. Why not expend our energies and our resources in reaching out to them instead?
Yes, it is true. There are many lost souls in our midst and the Lord yearns for each and every one of them to be part of His blessed family. He weeps over every sinner who perishes without Him and He rejoices over just one who falls into His saving embrace. And yes, we may even say that the Lord has brought the harvest to us – that He has brought many of the tribes, nations, and tongues of the world to be our literal neighbors. So yes, we must seize the opportunity to reach out to them with the message of grace and truth.
However, it is equally true that there is so much light here...light that simply does not shine in so many of the dark places of this world. Everyone here at home has ample opportunity to hear the Gospel. Radio, television, billboards, flyers, churches filled with many who can bring them to Christ. True, it is a sad reality that many believers here do not shine their lights in their own little worlds - their own sphere of influence - but should their disobedience invalidate the Lord's command to go into ALL the world?
I have often reminded my parishioners that Jesus' command in Acts 1 was filled with AND'S and not with OR'S...
AND Judea AND Samaria
AND the ends of the earth. Let us then shine
our lights here brightly, but also there…there where the darkness is all too
keen to overcome it and extinguish it.
However, does it not follow that the call to shine out our lights in that deep and tangible darkness is all the more urgent than to shine out our lights in the light? To go to where there is no (or very little) opportunity? To where there is no (or very little) witness? To go where the light struggles to penetrate the darkness? To go where the gates of hell strive to prevail against the plundering forces of the Kingdom of light? John Keith Falconer once said, "I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light."
Jesus told us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into His field as the harvest was ripe for the picking...both here and there...