Learning to walk after Jesus

Posted on April 2, 2015 by VMMissions Staff

In the slum outskirts of a large Southeast Asian city, Yugo and Grace live and serve among the poorest of Asia’s people. In a place of few economic hopes, they manifest the love of Jesus and work to bring hope to their community through transformational discipleship.

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Grace engages women in her community. Courtesy of Grace

Grace engages with women in her community. From left to right: Mama Rini, Mama Romi, Ibu Gali, Grace, Yani, Ibu Yulie. and in front: Ibut Yasin. Photo: Grace

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My son Jeremi is learning to walk. He will be one year old in two weeks, and yesterday, suddenly, he let go of my hand and started running around the green field near our house. It was incredible! He laughed hysterically as he marched forward a few steps, inevitably stumbling and falling over. I tried to catch him and slow his fall, like most times. I’d pull him to his feet and start walking again. Walk, run, fall down, stand up again, repeat, repeat. It was more fun than I can express in words.

Discipleship seems something like Jeremi learning to walk. Discipleship. The life-long journey to follow Jesus and become more like him. Jesus is our caring parent walking alongside us in this journey, letting us run ahead, stumble, and inevitably fall down. But he offers us his hand and pulls us back to our feet to keep going. Discipleship. Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all the nations.”

We take opportunities to tell stories about Jesus, pray with sick friends, and love people with the love God freely gives us.

I moved to the slums four years ago. My mind was full of big ideas of hope and transformation, ‘correct ways’ to evangelize in word and deed, the desire to see Muslims meet Jesus, and the dream of seeing slum communities transformed by the love of Jesus.

But in my four years here I have witnessed grueling poverty, a devastating fire, demolition and eviction of over 1,000 homes, and the daily grind that is the life of my neighbors. What does discipleship mean in such a context? And what does it mean to call others into this journey of discipleship with Jesus?

I choose to live here with my husband and son because we desire to follow Jesus. Our following, our stumbling walking alongside Jesus, happened to bring us to this particular garbage-collector community on the outskirts of a Southeast Asian mega-city. Yes, we still have hopes and dreams about our neighbors meeting Jesus and choosing to follow him. But also each day I am learning that my “service” here is in large part about me being transformed.

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Grace and Yugo run a free preschool and afterschool program—Rumah Harapan (House of Hope)— where children learn from caring teachers about the love of God and stories from the Bible. It also provides a safe place for kids to be for a few hours. “We believe many seeds have been planted,” Grace writes. Photo: Grace

Grace and Yugo run a free preschool and afterschool program—Rumah Harapan (House of Hope)— where children learn from caring teachers about the love of God and stories from the Bible. It also provides a safe place for kids to be for a few hours. “We believe many seeds have been planted,” Grace writes. Photo: Grace

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We run a free preschool and afterschool program for kids. These kids continually humble me, teach me about love and generosity, and keep me laughing. We teach them stories from the Bible and songs about how much God loves them. If nothing else, each day they have a safe place to come for a few hours; and they have teachers who love them and listen to them.

Sometimes I try to imagine what the future of our students will be. Will they stay in school or drop out like their parents? Will they be able to get better jobs, or will they be forced to sit sorting through trash heaps their whole lives? Will the girls have a future or will they marry and get pregnant as teenagers, like their mothers? We live here and love these kids, holding onto the belief that our tiny efforts may make some sort of positive difference in their lives.

It is a privilege to learn from Jesus here, and although no neighbors have become followers of Jesus yet, we believe that many seeds have been planted. We take opportunities to tell stories about Jesus, pray with sick friends, and love people with the love God freely gives us. And through this process I am learning more each day what it means to follow our Lord. It is in the following that we are transformed.

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In their neighborhood beside a large dump, people earn a meager living by sorting and reselling items. Among this  grueling poverty, Grace and her husband Yugo dream of a discipleship movement to Jesus. Photo: Carmen Schrock-Hurst

In their neighborhood beside a large dump, people earn a meager living by sorting and reselling items. Among this grueling poverty, Grace and her husband Yugo dream of a discipleship movement to Jesus. Photo: Carmen Schrock-Hurst

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Do I really believe God is the Healer? Only when my poor friends cannot afford medical care and I must pray for them. Do I really believe that God is the hope-giver? I watch children pushing carts of garbage and respond by teaching them ABCs. Do I really believe that Jesus offers something more than what is taught in Islam? Yes. And so we celebrate Christmas with over a hundred of our neighbor kids each year. Seeds of hope. Seeds of good news amid the overwhelmingly bad news all around us.

Oh, how we long to see a discipleship movement born here! To see our Muslim friends embrace Jesus as not only prophet but as Lord and Savior! Pray for signs and healings, for visions and dreams- that our neighbors would meet the risen Jesus.

We also long for more believers to join us in following Jesus to the slums. To join us in being transformed by Jesus’ heart for the poor. We do not have to know how to run by ourselves; we trust that as we stumble along like little children, Jesus is with us each step of the way. And l have to believe that just as I take pride in Jeremi’s steps forward, so too Jesus rejoices in our efforts to follow-no matter how small.

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From Transforming, Spring 2015

Filed in: All posts, Transforming

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