Don’t Waste this Time - Pray for What Matters Most Globally (With a Tribute to Joyce Lin)4
The one thing I wanted to take time to write this week is much bigger than our church and what's on our minds. There are great concerns about our nation, but let's keep the Great Commission on our mind, and the Glorious Christ's concern for all nations. It's been my burden in these times to keep missions before us, as a pastor but also as a person who grew up on the mission field in the Philippines (mentioned in this last post with a great gospel story here). This week, even major media news stories put missions before us in the death of Joyce Lin, a missions pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship who died while bringing COVID-19 resources and other supplies for a school and clinic in a remote village of Papua, Indonesia. She was known personally to one of our missionaries (more on that below) and is now known to many more.
Her testimony in the media
People Magazine article (quote also shared on CNN and other secular news outlets): "Her impact was significant. Joyce repeatedly shared how joy-filled she was in the weeks before she went to join the Lord ... Joyce was a light reflecting Jesus...”
From New York Post article: Joyce was "most excited to share the love of Jesus Christ by helping to transform other people’s deep discouragement and mourning into dancing and joy... "She will be deeply missed," the MAF said.
Fox News linked to her online memorial: "As COVID-19 forced Papua into lockdown, Joyce and her MAF teammates continued to find ways to serve. Joyce found reasons to be thankful even in this unprecedented challenge...It may sound strange, but these trying times have enhanced my feeling of purpose here in Papua,” Joyce said in an email update on May 6... On May 12 ... she was in the arms of her Savior ... Just two days before she went to be with the Lord, she shared how she was living her dream ... [she wrote] 'I am most grateful to personally know God, who has never forsaken me in my lowest times (as there have been many) and has repeatedly turned “mourning into dancing” (Ps 30:11) in ways I could not have brought about on my own'
Christianity Today article: Joyce recently wrote: "Before anyone objects to Christians or Westerners changing the way other people live it’s important to know that Papua was not a tropical paradise before the arrival of Christian missionaries. Papuan tribes lived to kill one another. … People lived in constant fear of other tribes and the spirit world.” ...
“There is a famous verse that Christians like to quote from Romans 8:28,” she wrote, “which says God is able to work all things together for the good of those he called according to his purpose. As I’ve looked back on my life, it has been cool to see the many ways in which this verse has been true in this calling to serve in Indonesia.”
Here is one of the best major media articles: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/18/missionary-pilot-death-coronavirus/
Our church's connection and personal reflections
This hits me (Phil) close to home, as I've personally flown on missions flights with MAF to a remote tribal group in Ecuador, I've flown on similar flights to smaller Islands in the Philippines, and I more recently spent time with MAF missionaries when I was in Africa. It also hits close to home for our church as we have members who have served in the past in her line of work, as missionary pilots in similar jungle fields (Bob Akin) and IT technicians (Mary Lou Carruthers on another island setting, Pacific Islands University).
It hits even closer to home for a missionary from our church, who personally knew Joyce and was in fellowship with her as part of a singles group in the mission community where they mutually served together (different organizations). Those who get his newsletter or have heard him speak may recognize the place names in the media reports of where his sister in Christ lost her life serving in the cause of Christ. He's also flown from and to those locations and has mutual friends who were even closer to Joyce -- this was an emotional week for them, having to do a funeral digitally from a distance due to country gathering restrictions. Let's pray for them and for her sacrifice to bear fruit, as my missionary friend asked us to pray in this.
Our church's missionary shared "I'm incredibly grateful for Joyce and her brief time here and the impact she's had. God's using her still and the organization she's apart of, how essential they are to my ministry and continued survival here. That I think pushes and creates a desire in me to spread the word and tell everyone possible about this loss and also this beautiful sacrifice of a life well lived. I hope and pray God uses it to inspire ad encourage others in their faith - in general but also in taking a more active role in reaching the world. I know it's doing that for me. I'm doing lots of ... healthy self reflection and evaluation in ways I've done ministry. There are some very specific things that I can learn from Joyce's example and apply that will be useful."
How should this impact us? Pastoral reflections
As a pastor back here in the States, it's good to be reminded of missionaries on the front lines. America is in the midst of a temporary crisis with significant death tolls, but an even worse crisis is the Christ-less destiny and eternity of billions worldwide, however they die. I'm convicted as part of an often selfish Western - speaking for myself personally, but I think others, too - we need more examples like Joyce who selflessly give up the comforts we complain aren't currently comfortable enough.
I'm convicted I need to do more to advance the gospel locally and globally and to be praying and engaging. As missionary brethren mourn Joyce, let's be moved to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His fields (I pray some reading this!). Over 300,000 dead from this disease is a tragedy, but let's also think of sin sick souls who do not have the gospel. Let's think of us who have the gospel but are not doing all we can to give it to a dying world, as that's a tragedy! Friends, let's not waste this opportunity to be reminded of our great commission and the need for young people like Joyce to use their training and background (in her case, computer work) to help reach the less reached and unreached peoples, and to help other missionaries get there.
Please take time to listen to this 7-minute clip by John Piper, a passionate plea to the next generation (and us older or in-between) regarding "tragedies" like this. Click here
Or if you have another 30+ minutes sometime, it's well worth your time to listen to the full version of his message here that we shared with our Young Adult Group (originally to 40,000 young adults). Also there is some commentary by Tim Challies here that reviews how one word from that message impacted many (and still needs to!). Dr. Piper begins by praying in light of his inadequacy, which is where we must begin as well (I sure need to!).
Let's pray especially for missionaries serving in these difficult times and for the light of Christ to reach and deliver those in the darkest of places (our text this weekend from Colossians 1:13). Let's also pray for others to rise up to take the place of Joyce Lin and people like her, bringing hope to a dying world. Let's pray for the billions around the world who have it much worse than us, but more importantly for the tragedy and crisis of those who die Christ-less. Let's pray for the gospel to bear fruit this month as Christ is proclaimed, that its spread would be unrestricted and that it would go farther and wider despite restrictions on gatherings. Let's pray for Christ to gather many into His kingdom in these days among the nations and for strength to those who serve in difficult places.