“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3)
Recently we flew far from home to spend meaningful chunks of time with our ministry partners around the world. As we came alongside our international friends we heard their stories, felt their heartbeat for the people they minister to, and experienced God stretching our hearts as wide as the continent of Africa. As always, these men and women encouraged us by their passion to faithfully persevere through the complexities involved in fulfilling God’s call.
I believe the apostle Paul surely wrote Ephesians chapter 1 with these ministry leaders in mind. They act as if fully convinced that they are “blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing” and “chosen before the foundation of the world” to carry out his purpose for the cities and towns from Nairobi, Kenya to Pretoria, South Africa. They believe that “in love” God planned for them to experience “adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” In turn, they pour out God’s love on the orphans, street children, refugees, and school children that comprise almost 50% of the population of their continent.
Our ministry partners know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is worth living and dying for. They express an unwavering devotion to Paul’s message that, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8). These Christian leaders dedicate their time, energy, and resources to selflessly present the Gospel in obscure villages, robust towns, and busy city centers, all the while seeking to represent the Lord through compassionate avenues of service.
Our colleagues must raise their own support and find the necessary funds to reach more, teach more, and love more people. They live with an awareness of the “riches of his grace” and the “lavishing” of God’s provisions for their ministries. They endeavor to believe that “In him we have obtained an inheritance” regardless of the size of their purse strings at present.
Each time we leave the Zambian conference to return home, a part of our heart remains behind. Our African brothers and sisters are woven tightly into our lives, and we join the apostle Paul to claim this prayer for them: “For this reason, because I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:15-19)
Elizabeth A. Mitchell