A Lisu Farewell

Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no-one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first’

Mark 10:28-31

For a number of years on a regular basis I travelled to a remote area inhabited by the Lisu people. A Bible training center and a large group of churches dot the landscape of this mountainous region. I had many opportunities to hike with fine Lisu pastors to distant villages in order to preach, sing and share fellowship with the believers living there. A number of these pastors have become very good friends. I was constantly amazed at their physical stamina. Pastor Ding, for example, was 70 years old, but he could still hike for six hours in one day at a pace that pushed me to my limit. I was also very much encouraged by their commitment to Christ, their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, and their Christian love. 

Just before I was scheduled to return to the US for a leave of absence, I travelled back to Lisu land to visit a group of churches. One stage of my journey involved hiking up a steep mountain path to a distant village. As usual, Pastor Mi was one of those who travelled with me.  I always looked forward to these hikes, not because I am particularly fond of physical pain, but because I enjoy being with men like Pastor Mi. And on journeys like these, God always seems to bring unexpected surprises our way. 

This trip was no exception. After a service in one village, we travelled back down the mountain in a small jeep with six other people and a goat (quite a ride!). On the road we were greeted by a very excited man. He was a member of the Jingpo tribe and, having heard that we were coming, he came out to ask us to pray with his family. They were building a new home – it took one day to build their bamboo, thatch home – and wanted us to bless it. It was touching to see their eagerness and joy as we prayed. I sensed that to these people we represented Christ in a very unique way. 

Later that night I preached at an evening service in another Lisu village. After the service I shared a meal with the leaders of the church. The building we ate in was a simple, mud brick dwelling with a tile roof. Holes in the wall served as a door and windows. A single, bare light bulb hung from the ceiling. In the darkness, the light shone brightly and attracted a battalion of insects. These bugs were both long and large, sporting a two-inch wing­span. Thy swarmed overhead as we ate and talked. Occasionally, one would dip down low into our faces. My Lisu friends were hardly distracted. Then I saw one bug fly into the soup bowl in front of me. A man sitting to my left, using his chopsticks, deftly plucked the insect out of the soup, raised it up so he could examine it in the light, and then, after observing it for a few seconds, plopped it into his mouth and gobbled it up. No one batted an eye at this unusual feast. 

The next day I prepared to leave my Lisu friends and travel back to my home. The journey to the closest airport was about two hours by car. Pastor Mi rode with me in the back seat. As the car bounced along the rough road, Mi looked over and said to me, ‘You love us!’ 

Four years of sharing meals, hiking and ministering together, were all summed up in that short phrase. I responded, ‘And you love us … the love of Jesus is wonderful.’ 

Lord, I will gladly serve you. You delight to shower me with your blessings. All of your promises are true. To those whom you call to leave family, friends and fields, you truly do provide a hundred-fold return. You usher me into your presence as a member of your great family, you fill my life with close and joyful relationships, and you provide for my needs. Although you have promised persecution, this is for but a short time. Eternal life is my ultimate reward. Praise the name of the Lord.