by Dr. Gene Ulmanis
It was September, 2019, and I received a phone call from Ed Lyons at Persecution Project, asking if I would be interested in visiting our ministry projects in the war-torn Nuba mountains of Sudan. The response from my heart was an instant “YES!” When I went home and told my wife, she informed me that she had, unbeknownst to me, prayed for an opportunity to minister in Africa.
I have heard people say, “I need to pray about it,” before making an important decision about ministry. But I think sometimes this statement is nothing more than us giving room to our fears, and wrapping them in “spiritual language” so we feel better about it when our answer is “no.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” —Proverbs 3:5
We should never let man’s opinion overrule what God wants us to do. It is very easy to do. Once we share our plans with fellow Christians, we will often be barraged by many questions and concerns. They will ask us about the security situation, the current war, the state of persecution, safety, disease, food and water supplies, etc. The worst possible outcomes and scenarios will enter minds and find expression in ways that can easily discourage us.
This negativity is not meant to harm, but the enemy knows it can plant seeds of doubt and sabotage ministry work. We could have easily talked ourselves out of going with Ed. After unprecedented rains washed out roads and swarms of locusts did unfathomable damage to food security, this was not going to be an easy trip.
But God opened the way.
He timed our trip to take place right after the roads re-opened and just before the Coronavirus lock-downs stopped most air traffic.
Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
“Redeeming the time” can be translated several ways in the Greek. One translation is “making the most of every opportunity,” or “making the most of every chance you get.” Every day is a chance. Every hour is an opportunity. Every moment is a precious gift.
Our trip showed God’s hand all the way, with a ministry that does not waste a dime and which is dedicated to Jesus and His persecuted church.
If someone had bombed your schools, hospitals and churches, how joyful would you be? The Nuba people we visited are thankful to Christ and to those acting as His hands and feet.
During this pandemic, while everyone seems to be focused on negative press, we need to consider how we are spending our time. Are we living in fear, or are we redeeming the time that God has given us and finding ways to serve?
Remember where there is an abundance of words, sin abounds. (Proverbs 10:19)
[B]ut where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20b)