Dear Friend in Christ:
“I was overwhelmed by the needs I saw, almost to the point of despair. And then, a miracle happened.”
In November of 1991, I made the first of two mission trips to Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. The people in each place found a place deep within my heart, and I reflect often on the events of those travels. During the first month I was there, the Soviet Union was dissolved by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and became what was then called “The Commonwealth of Independent States.”
It was a time of confusion, but also great hope, among people who had been under the domination of Communism for more than 70 years.
While Communist Party officials lived in relative luxury, most people were struggling economically. There were shortages of food and medical supplies; electric power was sometimes sporadic. Life was hard. People were weary. And the harsh Winter had begun.
Just five years prior, a catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant located in Ukraine near the border with Belarus had spewed vast amounts of radiation into the atmosphere, affecting millions of people in the region. When I arrived in Minsk, Belarus, I noted electronic signs in the city providing time, temperature … and current radiation levels. It was disconcerting, to say the least. Many people in Belarus and Ukraine had been sickened, and unknown multitudes had died in this
Perhaps most tragically affected were the children; some had been born after the blast but suffered with cancer and leukemia and other physical consequences. A children’s hospital in Minsk had become well-known for their skill and experience in treating these children, and they flocked there from across the Soviet Union.
As part of our ministry with Filipino evangelists Jose and Joyce Pascua, we visited that hospital. We brought with us bags of oranges, candies, crayons, and coloring books of Bible characters. It wasn’t much, but it was all we had. The hospital itself was old, the building in a very poor state of repair, and desperately overcrowded. The hospital staff and administrator were doing valiant work to provide the best care possible, but they were under-supplied … and the children and families kept coming from everywhere. Many of the children had lost their hair. Most of them were very frail. It was cold in the hospital. Rooms designed for 1-2 patients not only had 3-4 patients, but also worried parents, some sleeping on floors.
We went into many rooms with the staff and asked parents if we could share our gifts with them. We also shared briefly about the love of God in Jesus Christ for them. In every single room, every single person wanted to know more about Jesus. And every single person we spoke with wanted Jesus to come into their hearts and be the Lord of their lives. There was no pressure on these dear people from us or hospital staff; the people were so spiritually hungry, they asked many questions, often with tears, and asked us to pray with them for healing and salvation.
But there were so many children, so many families. Even the weary hospital staff members were asking for payer. Though I was profoundly moved and grateful, I was overwhelmed by the needs I saw, almost to the point of despair. And then, a miracle happened.
In one room, we met a young man named David and his family. He was the oldest child we saw in the hospital. He was in his mid-teens but could not have weighed more than 70 pounds. He was so weak; he couldn’t sit up in bed. But he was grateful for the oranges and candy … he even wanted a coloring book. Jose and Joyce had an immediate connection with him; their son is also named David. We shared with him and his mother about the love of Jesus, and they asked us to pray with them. We continued to visit other patients, and soon, our time at the hospital had come to an end, and we made our way down the long, dimly-lit stairway toward the exit.
Suddenly, we heard a shout at the top of the stairs. David was running to us, a huge smile on his face. In his hand was a sketch of Jesus he had made from the coloring book. He gave it to Jose, and he had written on it, “To David, from David.” There were smiles and tears all around. We later heard through the hospital administrator that David had immediately improved, went back home, and was later found to be healed of leukemia. Glory to God!
It was in these moments that the Lord reminded me of the words of Jesus from Matthew 9 and wrote them indelibly on my heart.
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38).
This call from Jesus to all of His followers remains clear today. The harvest is great, and it is ready… but the laborers are few. Jesus calls us to pray for laborers and also to be laborers. What is the harvest? Where is it? The field is the world, and all of those in it. The called harvest workers are His Church. His Great Commission says much about His heart and His priorities: preach the Gospel of His Kingdom, baptize believers, and make disciples. He said, “I will be with you AS YOU GO” (see
In John 4:34-35, Jesus tells His disciples (paraphrased): “Don’t get complacent and think the harvest is coming in a little while—lift up your eyes and see that the fields are already ripe unto harvest; the time is now, it’s urgent!” Jesus is telling each of us today, “The harvest is ready, the time to act is now, and if you don’t, you’re going to lose it.”
Just before Jesus makes the statement in Matthew 9, He has been ministering everywhere and there have been a series of miracles and unusual events:
• He forgave and healed a paralyzed man.
• He called a tax collector to be one of His disciples.
• He partied with sinners.
• A woman hemorrhaging blood was healed.
• A girl was raised from the dead.
• Two blind men were healed.
• A demon-possessed mute man was delivered and began to speak.
There is an atmosphere of miracles happening, but Jesus sees that there is so much more that needs to be done among the people. He sees their need for physical healing and restoration. He sees that they need shepherding—spiritual leadership, teaching, care, and guidance. His heart is moved with compassion. Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the vastness of the harvest; the multitude of lost and hurting people. Jesus was not discouraged; He was not deterred. He did not shrug His shoulders and ask, “What can one man do?” Jesus doesn’t say to His followers, “Pray that lost people will be prepared for the harvest.” He says, “They are ready now—but the laborers are not.” He didn’t say, “Pray for the harvest.” He said, “Pray for harvesters!”
LESSONS ABOUT THE HARVEST
• Jesus cares about His harvest—compassion for lost (see “other sheep” in John 10).
• The harvest belongs to Him.
• The compassion of Christ moves us.
• Prayer precedes harvest.
• Miracles are necessary.
• Workers are needed.
• Workers are called to pray for more workers.
There are many harvest fields in the world, and each is important. Here are a few:
• In the marketplace, in the office, at the factory, farm, or shipyard
• In our families and homes
• In our neighborhoods and communities, at the grocery store, pharmacy, diner
• In our schools and sporting events
Not everyone is called to the office of a pastor, prophet, teacher, evangelist, or apostle, but we are all called by Jesus Christ Himself to go and make disciples. And He holds us accountable to abide in Him, and in so doing, bear fruit that glorifies Him. Psalm 110:3 says: “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power.” One of the ways we can tell if God is moving in our lives is
whether we are ready to be volunteers. We can’t be in a lifestyle of prayer and worship without being stirred into action. Let’s seek the Lord about how we can be laborers in His harvest and pray together that He will raise up and send a new generation into His field.
As you do, please remember CSM this month in your prayers and in your financial support. We are giving ourselves to training a new generation of harvesters among the nations. We are so thankful for your friendship in this journey!
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.