How to minister in the most dangerous places on Earth
Jemima Ooi, Justice Rising // October 31, 2018, 5:47 pm
Three years ago, my team and I were eight hours deep in the jungles working in a war-ravaged village when a rebel soldier came charging at us in a fit of rage. He was threatening to rape those who dared to enter the territory.
Filled with divine boldness, our Congolese pastor stepped in front of us and said, “I have a better idea, why don’t you kneel down and we will pray for you.”
Upon hearing this, the soldier fell to his knees. As he struggled to get up, we realised he was not kneeling by his own volition. It was as though someone we couldn’t see was holding him there. All the frightened villagers were amazed – I have no doubt this was an angelic intervention!
Seeing that he had been supernaturally apprehended, our group of missionaries surrounded him and began to pray. When we had finished, the man looked up completely dazed; something demonic had left his eyes.
With a trembling hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumbled Congolese note. He then gave it to my pastor and said, “Here, take this as my offering!”
Rising to his feet with great effort, this same soldier who moments ago had been threatening to rape us, turned around to the gawking crowd and declared, “Listen to these people, for they are the true servants of God!”
I suppose we witnessed our own version of “Daniel in the lions’ den” right there!
People often comment that I must be very brave or courageous to do what I do.
I don’t feel particularly brave to be honest. I don’t think anything within me is sufficient for the task at hand, but that’s where I understand that it’s in my weakness that He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Some ask how I was able to give up my life 7 years ago to live in such places. The only way I can think of explaining things is this: When you love someone, it suddenly doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, as long as you’re with that person. The thought of living outside His Presence is worse than death to me.
This “courageous faith” is a product of years of walking with God. Having Him so close in my everyday, learning to lean into His guidance and have running conversations with Him.
When I first began walking in intimacy with God, I had a revelation of how precious I was to Him. It was a revelation of His passionate and devoted love for me. I began to realise: If God loves me so much, surely He enjoys my company, surely He wants to hear about my day, surely He desires to speak with me constantly.
Perhaps I’m the one that needs to pause more to hear Him.
This revelation has led me on a journey of training my heart to perceive Him at every moment, to know what His heart is in any given matter.
I experience God’s unfailing love for me daily.
When He tells me to go somewhere, I know He’s right by my side. I could be the greatest general with the most powerful army entering a war zone, but still that would pale in comparison to entering the war zone as His child.
When I walk into any place as a child of God, I understand that all of heaven bends for His little one. It’s not pride – in the natural I recognise my weakness, it is obvious to me – but there is an abiding Presence by my side, a deep knowing that I’m important in His eyes.
The God of the angel armies watches over me and He never sleeps nor slumbers.
Life on the field can get very uncertain; we sometimes go to sleep to the sounds of gunshots, minister in the most dangerous places – even the massacre regions of the Congo – and live amidst threats of rape and kidnappings.
In all of this, I can sincerely say, God has been my exceedingly great reward. He has never failed me. Learning how to be fully dependent on Him like a child, walking as one with Him has been my biggest takeaway.
Here are two things I hold closely to heart whenever I’m tempted to be afraid.
1. Know that you are deeply loved and you’re not alone
When I was a child on my first day in school, I remember sitting nervously in a new place, with new people. I didn’t know what the future would hold, but when I glanced to the doorway, I saw my dad peering in at me. Noticing me looking to him, he gave me a wink, and suddenly I knew everything would be alright.
That’s life with God: We often can’t control what will come and things will always seem uncertain, but God is the God of the unknown.
He lives outside of time, nothing surprises Him, and He’s always with us. So whether I stand before crowds as a preacher or rebel armies as a missionary, I see God watching on with a smile and winking at me. Then I know everything’s going to be just fine.
2. Put your trust in Him and His abilities
I generally feel incapable of the things God asks me to do. I can have all the money and favour in the world but I’m still helpless to heal the heart of an orphaned child. I don’t have the money to build many schools; I don’t even have an income.
If I looked to myself, all I see is limitations. What stopped the people of Israel from entering the Promised Land? They looked inwards not upwards. In their own words, they were “like grasshoppers in our own sight” (Numbers 13:33).
God designed us to live with Him. When we are caught up into His will, we will always be living far beyond anything we can accomplish in our own strength. If I can accomplish something on my own, that’s not a dream from God. That’s not a big enough dream, it can’t fit the magnitude and magnificence that is Him.
There is a power within us. John 14:16 says that our Holy Spirit, the Helper will “abide with you forever”. With Him I can do all things (Philippians 4:13), and He will never leave me.
Within every life – yours, mine and every person you meet – there is a seed with the potential to change the world.
Someone once said that the richest places in the world are graveyards – where ideas, inventions, cures for diseases were never pursued and taken to the grave. The world’s system distracts and preoccupies us with worthless pursuits.
We are constantly pushed to live selfishly, pursuing a name for ourselves, material collections that have no eternal worth … Something, anything, to show for ourselves. But deep down inside, there’s a more powerful yearning, a desire to live beyond ourselves.
We were made from love Himself. To love. When we love others, we come alive.
Pursuing a higher road requires a perspective and understanding centred on eternity.
The Bible says that God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I’ve learnt to weigh my pursuits in the light of eternity. I ask myself questions like: Do I want to give my life to this endeavour? Will it count for anything in eternity?
To me there are very few things that cross the line into eternity: (1) My relationship with God; (2) The souls of the people He’s given to me (Daniel 12:3). It’s the two overarching commandments Jesus spoke of (Matthew 22:36-40).
So before I give my life to anything, I do this quick litmus test: Does God desire this of me? Will this bless and please His heart? Does it save or heal souls? When I can answer “yes” to these questions, it’s something that’s worth my life.
When you love someone, it suddenly doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, as long as you’re with that person.
My walk with God has been nothing short of an adventure. I desire nothing but to be with Him, content in His company. He satisfies every part of me. We talk about everything from needing wisdom in a tricky situation, to needing help with constipation.
I love that I can see how He orders all my steps and is so intricately involved in the details of my life. I’m beginning to see, more and more, how all the days of my life was written in His book, before any of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).
His fingerprints are everywhere and I’m learning how to watch what the Father is doing and to follow after (John 5:19-20). It’s really an abundant life and a beautiful existence.
Besides her primary work in the Congo with Justice Rising, Jemima currently oversees two slum schools in India, is helping to develop a large refugee settlement in the central Kenyan desert while working with survivors from the genocide in Rwanda, and is supporting a Burundian refugee community. If you’d like to support the work, please visit Justice Rising’s donation page to make a contribution.