By Jonathan Augustine
He sent them all into this city. Normally, Jesus sent them as teams of two for each city, but this one time He sent all twelve of His disciples. Called and commissioned by the Lord of the Harvest, entrusted with the message of the Kingdom of Heaven, evil spirits subject to them… yet they brought NO ONE to Jesus.
The One who came to seek and save the lost was undeterred in His divine mission. Just as they returned without a single citizen of the city following them, Jesus was completing His commissioning of a woman who would not fail to be His bearer of Good News. She ran by them into the city they had just left. Meanwhile, the disciples were shocked to the point of silence that Jesus had broken the cultural taboo against speaking with a Samaritan woman. They didn’t even bother to ask Him “why?”
Moments later, they were being gently reprimanded; “You think harvest is later and far from here, don’t you? If you would open your eyes you would see it is right here, right now!” As they looked back at the city, they could see a mob forming, in the center of which stood the woman pointing back to Jesus. Then the crowd began to move straight toward them! An unpleasant stop just became unsafe. “Eat quickly and let’s go Master!” they cried. Instead, Jesus calmly rejects the bread, points to the crowd and says, “Sharing Living Water and the Bread of Life with hungry hearts like these is my food…but you don’t understand that, do you?”
One of the greatest revivals in the ministry of Jesus happened here, and those that know Him best and were “officially” commissioned as disciples missed it completely. They were dumbfounded spectators. As Jews, their hatred of the Samaritans blinded them to the Kingdom harvest.
This story is long ago and far away…or is it?
9/11. Do you see them now? Muslims, our modern-day Samaritans.
Remember that 10/40 window we prayed for over the last 50 years? ISIS driving people from that window into our back yard here in Europe, where we can safely reach them with the Gospel, took us all by surprise; but the Lord of the Harvest does not seem to share our alarm. He’s listening to our shrill voices the same way He listened to His disciples by Jacob’s Well. He’s calm, with an amused expression and eyebrows arched as if to ask, “how exactly did you expect me to answer your prayer?” Now, as then, the majority of the anointed seem to be missing the moment, but some have lifted up their eyes and see this massive harvest.
Miroslav Radovanovic is the national Bishop of the Church of God in Serbia. When Hungary shut down their borders and the entire flow of Muslim refugees shifted to moving through Serbia, he responded immediately. The Serbian Church of God was the very first Christian organization to meet the refugees as they neared the border. Even the Red Cross got there later and needed to borrow our generator as they set up. For the next 77 days, Miroslav and his team of volunteers handed out food, water, and clothing to the massive wave of Muslim refugees that walked through their country. They also offered them a copy of the Gospel of John in Arabic and Farsi…and the majority took it.
Even after increased government regulations made it impossible for them to go to the border, the Church of God in Serbia was not done reaching out. Thousands of refugees, especially from Iran, are still held in a refugee camp nearby, so the church received permission to enter the camp and offer a Bible study in Farsi twice a week. The small Church of God in `Sid, Serbia next to the camp opened their doors to the refugees. Their tiny room for about 30 people was quickly packed with over 80 refugees, hungry for the Bread of Life.
Today, the Bible Study in the camp is held every day and led by an Iranian woman refugee who is being discipled by the Church of God in Serbia. The Church of God in Sid has so outgrown their facility that they developed a low-cost plan to more than double their worship space in order to accommodate the growing number of refugees coming to church. With difficulty, I was able to raise $2500 but then World Missions General Director, David Griffis, gave $5000 towards the $10,000 needed and work has begun. Meanwhile, national Bishop Radovanovic has rented a large community center to accommodate the crowds.
In December of 2018, I also traveled to Zagreb, Croatia to officially register a new Church of God congregation in the capital city. In the center of the city, over 100 refugees filled the small worship space. This church plant is a joint outreach between the Church of God and the Nazarene Church. Though the refugees were from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran there was such a wonderful sense of unity as the service was conducted in Arabic, Farsi and English. After I preached and we signed the official documents, I listened to the testimony of a former Muslim Imam who had been baptized two weeks before. Through the Arabic translator, he said, “I am standing here to declare, Jesus is GOD!” Then he pointed to an entire row of people and said, “and tonight I brought my family to hear this Good News!”
It was glorious.
The Church of God in Serbia and Croatia know what it is to be driven from homes by war – 25 years ago their countries were immersed in the most recent Balkan war. Their eyes were open to see what much of the church missed. No matter how well-intentioned, no single culture can see every harvest opportunity. The disciples of Jesus missed the Samaritan harvest, and we are not better than them. We need the vision of our international brothers and sisters to FINISH the Great Commission.
Miroslav recently traveled to visit his brother Sasha, who is a worship leader in a Church of God in Germany. As Miroslav entered that church, three brothers of Middle-Eastern descent recognized him and ran up to him excitedly. “You! You are the one who cared for us on our journey! We looked for the same church symbol when we arrived here in Germany, and your brother was here to welcome us. What a wonderful family! Through your witness, we accepted Jesus and now we are part of this family!”
That is the Church of God with eyes wide open for the harvest.
Yes, what a wonderful family it is!