While at seminary, and still trying to figure out what I believe and what ministry ahead might look like, a prescribed reading on the German Theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s: “The Cost of Discipleship”, changed the way I looked at Ministry for ever. Yes! There’s a price to pay. And so I’ve come to experience that obedience to Christ’s call often includes, hardship, suffering and challenges along the way.
John and Caren Ngosa’s story is one of those: Being a compassionate and fearless young emerging leader, with a heart for God’s work, and a passion for church planting; John asked to be sent to one of the most difficult regions, where he took over a small struggling church. Situated in a remote town, steeped in witchcraft, on the border with Tanzania, the Congo, and Zambia, no pastor previously had been able to stay or grow the church there. Yet, John actively evangelizing the community with his young wife and baby, soon saw the church grow as new converts were attracted to Jesus through his and Caren’s love for the people.
Within a year they had turned the failing church around, to the point that they had to tear down the little church and build a larger structure to accommodate the amazing growth in people coming to faith. But the only way to fit a larger building onto the property, was to actually build completely over the existing small structure. While continuing to use the existing small building for their meetings, they began construction on the new building, completely surrounding the old structure. But that meant first making and baking all the clay bricks. Not having any cash for things like cement and roofing materials, AFnet, through some donated funds, helped to pay for that, while the church provided all the labor for the construction. Remembering what they had learned from AFnet regarding Widows and Orphans, Pastor John identified three destitute and homeless widows, and donated the metal roof sheets from the old building, helping them each build a small shack to live in.
That’s when crisis struck: And now Johan and Caren need our help and prayers more than ever. Out of nowhere, suddenly Caren started losing her eyesight, and more recently becoming paralyzed in her legs, to the point where she now is almost totally immobile, and under full-time care by the village family. We sent them money and arranged for her to travel to the city where she was checked and medically examined. But no diagnosis as yet could be found. So, we still have no idea what the cause could be.
Then to top this off, just days ago from writing this, John sent me more alarming news. Having labored faithfully for over a year, working on the new structure – just last month finally putting on the roof – a storm out of nowhere came up while they were working inside on the finishing. Within moments the entire roof was ripped off, leaving the mangled steel structure and metal sheeting crumpled and unusable next to the building. Then as quickly as that wind appeared, ripping the roof off, it subsided and was gone. Interestingly, we don’t know of any tornado ever being reported in that part of the world.
Our conclusion: Yes! There is a cost to serving God. And, obedience to His call is no guarantee that we will be spared suffering. John and Caren’s experience is evidence of that. But we do know that with the struggle God also provides the outcome, albeit not necessarily according to our wishes, but certainly in accordance with His will and purpose.
Johan and Christa