I wanted to share some of my thoughts of my recent trips to Bethel where I continue teaching at the Alaska Bible Seminary. The first 1-week trip a few weeks ago centered on equipping prospective pastors on counseling. After a week back in Soldotna, we as a family headed back to Bethel for my usual 2-week class… this time on Paul’s Epistles. Time out in Bethel always draws my attention to the needs across this part of our state, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and it’s 56 surrounding villages.
In the evenings and some mornings between teaching, I did some overdue reading. Well, as the schedule of 6 hours of teaching a day and catching up with friends out here goes, I ended up only really focusing on a little reading. I wanted to share some of one these books. “Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places” by Kate McCord speaks to how God often leads us to unexpected places as we follow His sovereign leadership. Now, I’m not saying that Bethel and the villages of Alaska are dangerous in even a similar way to the Middle East locations of this book. However, some parts caught my attention as universally applicable.
Speaking to God preparing a great banquet in His house for a great feast, the author connects this to the reason we persevere in our evangelistic/missional fervor to the ends of the earth. “He’s prepared his celebration and wants his home full of guests. There are too many empty places and so he sends out more invitations. ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ His servants run through the dusty streets. This time, they don’t knock on gates but instead find the beggars sitting beside the road. They press invitations into their hands and bid them come. And they do. The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame of the city come to the king’s wedding. But the king’s house is beg and still there is room. He longs for his house to be full, so once again he sends out more invitations. ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’ His servants leave the safety and security of the lanes and streets of the city. They search the highways and along the hedges for whoever they can find: strangers, foreigners, men, and women of different tribes, nations, and tongues. They compel them to come in. ‘Come, My master has prepared a feast. Come.’ I cannot help but think that Jesus’ parable describes exactly the heart of Father God, a Father who even now is preparing a wedding feast for His Son. Already, He sees the guests: celebrants from every tribe, nation, and tongue; Uzbeks and Pashtuns, Scots and Poles, Libyan Sawknah, Sudanese Rufaiyin, Indian Kotwali, and Han Chinese. [I would add Alaska Natives] I imagine Father God, delighted that finally the long-awaited celebration has come; the guests are eating and dancing, rejoicing in the glory of His home. I imagine His deep satisfaction, His joy and His delight.
BUT that day hasn’t come yet. Jesus is STILL preparing a place and we’re still delivering invitations.
WHY does God CALL us to dangerous places, to the highways and the hedges of the world? Because God’s house is not yet full. Because there are places that are empty and guests who have not yet received their invitation…
SO we, God’s servants, GO, our Master’s invitation in our hands, out to the highways and hedges. We walk through squalid refugee camps in Syria, fetid open air trash dumps in Mozambique, drug-infested smoky brothels in Bangkok. We go because deep in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan and out on the dusty plains of Iraq, there are people whom God wants to come to His feast. There are people hidden away in small villages in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan who belong at God’s table. There are women in Somalia; street kids in Portland, Oregon; girls in northern Nigeria; and men in Chechnya and a thousand other places who belong in God’s house…
He’s prepared His table from the foundations of the earth, and there is still room. Some, like those initially invited in Jesus’ parable, will receive their invitation and reject it. Others will refuse the invitation and mistreat the messengers who deliver it. Still others will disrespect the invitation and the God who invites them. Yet, in heaven, there will be a party and guests will come ‘from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.’ They’ll be clothed in ‘fine linen, bright and pure,’ and the sound of their celebration will be glorious!”
McCord, Kate, Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places. Moody Publishers: Chicago, IL. 2015. pp. 77-80.
Just like God’s Acts 18 reassurance to Paul of His plan in Corinth, God is going to save some from all people groups. Thus, we go forward in this great confidence that our sovereign, unstoppable is still building His church and bringing more people to His eternal feast! This is why we labor in Soldotna. This is why we labor in Bethel. This is why we persist in our passion to exalt Jesus throughout our vast state, because there are souls tucked away in some of the remotest parts of Alaska whom Jesus wants at His feast. So, go we must. Echoing Paul’s words to the Romans, woe is me if I don’t preach the Gospel!
Thank you so much for your prayers for us and the Alaska Bible Seminary in Bethel. Keep praying for God’s work here! And may you, wherever you read this, renew your focus and passion to herald the Gospel invitation to souls wherever God may lead you!