I've been feeling some pain over a few people who seemed to be doing well, pressing into more commitment: then, in their various ways, seemed to fold - in less than a fortnight - and now one of them has had to be asked to stay away until they can come back in better heart, one's very scarce and slippery, another's got confused and is making noises about backing out... And then there's me - I find myself aware (oh, so aware, but usually after it's too late and I've done or said something stupid) of my own sins and shortcomings.
If it wasn't for the blood - we'd all be dead.
A friend sent me a very heartening word from Jackie Pullinger the other day, from the preface to her book, Chasing the Dragon. It gave me strength to fight on another day. Here it is. Hope others find it strengthening too.
"Over the years we have had hundreds of short-termers who want to get the picture immediately - if possible on video - so they can show it to their home church and have an inspired evening. I have begged them to love the people and stay, just like Sai Di did of me thirty years ago. The disadvantage of short term is a wrong perspective based on this generation's need for instant results. Many have stayed with us and lived in our new houses, now called St Stephen's which currently houses over three hundred men, women, teenagers and children all over HK.. Sometimes everything goes well and there are real conversions, healing and glorious glimpses of changed lives. The visitors leave and wonder why it does not work at home. They wonder why everything seems so easy in Hong Kong. At other times nothing goes right even here. The man who prophesied last night beats up a helper the next morning or the whole house runs away. They visitors leave disillusioned. "It is nothing like she wrote in her book, we had a hard time." The remarkable fact that after so long we still see most addicts who come to us believe in Jesus, pray in tongues and detoxify from drugs painlessly does not obscure the fact that they need a changed mind. So the voyeurs leave. They have their video clips but they never saw. It was either all too good or all too bad and neither was accurate. We love our people whether they turn out well or not and the successes do not vindicate our ministry nor the disappointments nullify it. What is important is whether we have loved in a real way - not preached in an impassioned way from the pulpit."
We press on. And despite the desperate foolishness, stubbornness, and 'swerve to rot' that seems to infect us all, grace will see us through. Maybe, when we arrive at our destination, we'll all sing a heavenly rendition of 'Amazing Grace' with unparalleled gusto (and maybe with some tears amid the joy - before they're wiped away forever...)