Here, I sit on a warm porch with a stilling breeze. I stare at the Himalayan foothills and hear birds and dogs and voices and infrastructure. I type these words because I need to, not because I want to. I don’t want to tell their stories; I want you to hear them as I heard them.
We rode in the car, fighting dizziness and being tossed around like sacks in the back. We sat in the living room, my legs tucked up under me—indian style; that still way of sitting that we learned as children. Each time, I heard stories. Stories of persecution. Of families that say, “You are no longer my son. I will go to court and sign the papers, and it will be so.” Of families that tie their son onto a bed, beat him, and force him to eat food sacrificed to idols.
My brother’s uncle shared the gospel with him. He refused. “I’ve read your Bible, I like the gospel of John. But I do not believe Jesus is coming so soon, so I will enjoy my youth and in ten years, I will follow Him.” Wounded, his uncle said, “I will never share with you again.”
Two nights later, as my brother wrestled with how he would commit suicide, Jesus visited him. “I saw a man in white, with His arms outstretched.” He described his tentative reaction, his belief stepping out shakily from the darkness, but then he described the filling of the Spirit, “I felt as though a river was running through me, head to toe.” Such peace and joy forever replaced his fear.
I thought of Jesus’ words in John about rivers of living water springing up into eternal life. That’s what happened that night with my brother. He felt the springs come alive in his heart.
And then he went to his uncle. “I want to follow Jesus.” All his uncle could say was, “I have been fasting and praying for you these past two days.”
“This was amazing, because he trusted in prayer more than in his own words,” my brother spoke, not knowing how these words would fall upon my heart. “Even as he said he would not share with me anymore, he fell to his knees for me.”
“You do not do this,” my Father whispered. My heart sank, heavy with conviction. I could hardly listen to the rest of the story, as my brother was kicked out of his family and was a nomad for a very long time, but was safe under the hand of the Lord. “But now with my wife the Lord has blessed me.” This brother of mine has done so much to see our Father’s kingdom come and will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And yet he has this precious view of his work—a humble vessel the Lord pours through.
And I’m over here, floundering in inadequacy, wanting language so badly, and praying so feebly. No wonder my heart feels heavy, my mind slow, and my body weak. I’ve forgotten the story that spurs me on—of the Son’s own persecution, rejection, and death. For me. The story that made every piece of my story possible.
The New Testament is reality here; breathing upon our brothers and sisters, suffocating cultural traditions and severing family ties. I’ve never heard these stories firsthand before. Always through some fantastic public speaker or a dramatic video clip. Never over a cup of chai, as if it is as natural as talking about the weather. Never while driving down the road in the midst of causal conversation.
But they keep their stories beautifully, believing with full hope about what God is teaching them in it or how He is still at work. They keep them so close.
I hold mine with such distance. We’ve been sharing stories as a team, and I’ve been wondering how I will share, what I will share, what I don’t want to share—“I, I, I” being the constant refrain. My brother this morning shared with only one refrain—“It is Jesus’ testimony. He knew I needed Him.”
When I hold my story at a distance, unsure of its impact on today’s details and events, I hold His story at a distance too. I keep Him at a distance.
But today, I adopt this brother’s closeness, this same closeness by which Jesus adopted me—“It’s His story. He knew I needed Him.”