Light in a Dark, Smoky Room

‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” So he got up and went to his father. 

‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 

‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate’ 

Luke 15:17-24

Some years ago I, along with another brother, travelled to a minority village in a remote part of China. The village was very small, consisting of ten homes and around 40 people. I stayed with the Luo family, clearly the leaders of the village. The village was very poor, without electricity. The villagers were subsistence farmers. They had almost no knowledge of Christianity. 

The first night we shared a video (using a battery pack and projector) about creation, the fall, the life of Jesus and a final summary of the gospel. The reaction was mixed. Later, however, we sat around the fire in the Luo family home and talked. The villagers began to open up and share more about their lives and their struggles. We finally had a time of prayer. 

The next day was tremendous. A pig was slaughtered (an annual event) and packed for preservation and usage throughout the year. Then we all came together for a great feast. That night about 25 villagers gathered in the dimly lit main room of our host’s home. Oil lamps and an open fire filled the room with smoke, but also provided our only light. My colleague, Laurence, had his guitar so we began to sing. These are oral people, used to sitting around the fire at night and singing and talking. And so, after a song or two, I began to tell them stories about Jesus. This took the entire evening. Laurence was the singer, I was the storyteller. The villagers loved the songs and the parables of Jesus. It was wonderful to see their interest and amazement as they heard, for the very first time, the parables of the prodigal son, the unmerciful servant, and the great banquet. I ended by emphasizing that God does not look down upon people. He loves all those he created, including their tribe. By following Jesus we can have our relationship with God restored and become a part of his family. We ended with a time of prayer. There was a wonderful sense of God’s presence in that dark, smoky room packed with villagers. 

Lord, I praise you because you love all of your creation, including those in the poorest villages of this world. You are not impressed by demonstrations of power and wealth, nor are you blinded by outward displays of piety. You look upon the heart. And you welcome the poor and the rich alike, to lay aside other priorities and joyfully enter into your family. Lord, help me celebrate with you when lost siblings return to the family. Enable me to see others as you see them, and thus seek for their return – and celebrate to the extreme when they do so.