A way in the wilderness
This year’s Lenten journey is a unique one for me and my wife Chelsea. We are on a six-month adventure, spending each month in a new country with communities practising incarnational mission.
They seek to follow Jesus’ example as he became flesh and blood, moved into the neighbourhood and chose to associate with those on the margins of society. Amongst many things, we hope to learn how they keep their love for Jesus alive and remain hopeful and joyful amidst neighbours, neighbourhoods and chapters of their own story that carry pain and heartache.
Through our time in these communities I am discovering the beauty in perseverance; the dogged, painful perseverance of faithful people. People who can see immediate suffering in light of what will come and, like Jesus as he walked towards the cross, hold onto the promise of abundant life.
This past month, Chelsea and I stayed with a beautiful organisation and community. They walk alongside survivors of human trafficking and sex slavery post-rescue and years into recovery. The effects of this type of oppression are devastating but, through decades of faithfulness, this community has been the stage of incredible acts of God’s redemptive healing and love.
Many of the survivors are now leaders and passionate advocates against human trafficking, reaching out to other women in slavery and creating safe communities of belonging and healing for them. These women are fierce about using their freedom to set others free. They do it with a joy and delight in God that humbles and deeply challenges me. They embody the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1-4, where God frees the poor, broken-hearted, captives and prisoners. God has traded their ashes for crowns of beauty, clothed them in garments of praise and they have been empowered to rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated for generations. All creation groans but behold: God is making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. He is doing a new thing!
There has been plenty of discouragement along the way, but the leaders have never failed to be present to these women. As one of the leaders, Ate (older sister) Tina, reminded me, we often do not stay long enough to witness new things happening. Sometimes it requires waiting on God’s timing or for God to strip back the blinders over our eyes so we can see what is already taking place.
This Lent, the faithfulness of these women points me back to Jesus’ journey to the cross, reminding me to keep walking faithfully amidst the groaning, trusting in God’s redemptive plan.
As you journey through this Lent season, may the Lord comfort you as you too live amidst the groaning. May the Holy Spirit strengthen you as you pick up your cross and walk after Jesus. May you also be encouraged to persist faithfully, knowing that as you follow Jesus to the cross, the story does not end in death but in beautiful, freedom-full life!
Ben Chong and his wife Chelsea are a Melbourne couple who are travelling for six months to eight different countries, exploring God’s call to love people on the margins. They are meeting with followers of Jesus who live and work in various contexts to see how God is working around the world, gain wisdom about sustainability, and to discern the next steps for their vocations. Follow their adventures at www.benandchelsea.com.au