by Greg Pruett
From my house I could see the column of flame and cinders rising like a superheated tornado threatening to devour the whole village of grass huts. Two homes already blazed white-hot—competing with the intensity of the West African sun as the whole community stood helplessly wailing in distress.
Men desperately dismantled nearby structures to contain the inferno and keep the rest of the village from burning. I gaped at the sight of my terrified friends weeping, but my mind kept wandering over to the tanks of water I had been storing up at my house less than a hundred yards from the fire.
I yelled over the deafening commotion, “Hey! Come to my house. We have water!” No one could hear me; the fire fixed every gaze. Then I raced to my house, filled a bucket with water, and carried it to the fire. The meager splash didn’t even make an audible hiss. To anyone watching, it was a futile effort; there is no way one guy with a bucket can put out a village fire. The dry grass under the hot African sun whooshes into flame like firecrackers soaked in gasoline. But everyone at my house started pouring water into buckets.
It was the third lonely trip that caught someone’s attention, and she followed with her bucket. The next time, a trail of five women came along—then 10. In minutes every woman in the village raced back and forth transporting water while the men pressed into the flames dousing the fire with each precious load. My family filled buckets like a scene out of I Love Lucy. I disconnected the water pipe from the wall and flooded containers as a parade of people circulated back and forth extinguishing the fire. By the time we exhausted my water supply and the last flames sputtered out, we had changed. We weren’t wailing anymore. We had become an international, interdependent community who met the need together.
Have you seen the burning need in the world? Maybe it doesn’t look like an inferno from where you stand, but I’ve been to the fire and seen it.
One day the little daughter of one of my closest friends in the village wandered wide-eyed around our home for the better part of a day when my wife finally thought it best she move on. Finding a piece of dried-up bread we wouldn’t get around to eating, she escorted the child to the door and offered, “Why don’t you go home and share this bread with your siblings?”
The next morning her mother was getting water from our cistern and said, “Our daughter kept us awake all night last night. She begged us to give her to your wife. I told her, ‘You would abandon your own mother for a piece of bread?’”
But for this little girl, starvation made the choice clear: Her mother didn’t have any bread and that other lady had bread. The need burns in empty stomachs and parched souls all over the world. This little girl didn’t have food, she couldn’t read, and her entire ethnic group had only a handful of struggling churches without even a Bible in their language.
See the Need
God’s challenge for the church is clear, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).
If the church has not met the needs of the people of the world as Jesus commands, it’s not because we don’t have the resources. It’s not because we don’t have the love of God in us. It’s because we have not really seen the need. Many think, Surely in this day of the Internet and television, the whole world has already heard the message of Jesus. But for the 2 billion who live in cultures without a Christian presence, the need for Christ still burns out of control.
Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), but fewer than six missionaries are sent per 1 million Buddhists or Hindus in the world. Among Muslims, only three missionaries reach out to every 1 million people.
If you had been born among these billions of unreached people, what opportunity would you really have to love Jesus? Yet less than 1 percent of Christian giving goes to reach out to these parts of the world where the gospel has not yet been preached.1 What if you lived among the 1 billion people who don’t have the New Testament translated into their language, or among the 200 million without even a verse of Scripture?2
Pray, Send, or Go
This morning I heard from one of our supporters who has faithfully given $100 every month for 16 years. Imagine all the people who are hearing of Jesus’ love because of this couple. People will be reading the Bible in their language for generations because this couple helped us translate it. Hungry children will eat fruit for decades from thousands of fruit trees planted with their help. Tens of thousands from all over this ethnic group are hearing the Scriptures preached weekly on the radio, in part, because this couple gave. Do you want God to use you to work his miracles around the world?
What would your life be like if you never said “no” to God again? What if you made your life choices based only on faith and never on fear? What if you began sacrificially supporting and praying for missionaries? What if you quit your job and took your family overseas to love a people who are without a witness for Jesus? Why not listen to that whispering voice of God urging you to deny yourself (Matthew 16:24-26) and be his witness to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)?
Come find your place in this international bucket brigade of mission—some sending resources, others praying for missionaries, others carrying the message and resources to where they are needed most. Come attend the National Missionary Convention to learn more about God’s mission.3 For help finding your role, contact one of these excellent missions from the Restoration Movement heritage:
• Christian Missionary Fellowship at cmfi.org
• FAME (medical evangelism) at fameworld.org
• Good News Productions Inter-national at gnpi.org
• International Disaster Emergency Service at ides.org
• New Mission Systems International at nmsi.org
• Pioneer Bible Translators at pioneerbible.org
• TCM International at tcmi.org
• Team Expansion at teamexpansion.org
God has shown us the burning need. All we have to do is go get some water and toss it on the fire. You may not believe a handful of missionaries can meet the vast need of the world, but never underestimate the power of even one stubborn person with a bucket who refuses to quit running back and forth. Others are grabbing their buckets, and God is building an interdependent, international community of mission. The church of the whole world is mobilizing, and by God’s power, the need will be met.
Does It Make a Difference?
Can one person really make a difference in the world? Do you remember that hungry little girl in my village home? For that girl, that day, it did make a difference. She was hungry, and that day she got bread. Her culture had almost no churches witnessing for Jesus. They didn’t have a Bible in their language. Almost no one could read.
But now the agency I serve and our many partners are meeting the need. Now they have more churches. They have a Bible translated in their language, and many are reading it. Now more than 5,000 fruit trees have been planted, and hungry children are being fed. It does make a difference!
Grab your bucket and come along.
Greg Pruett serves as president of Pioneer Bible Translators, Dallas, Texas.