We have a family in our church from Suriname, South America (parents & two young boys). They were raised Muslim, but after a few months of attending, they were baptized and joined a Connection Group. Despite pursuing U.S. citizenship for many years, they received notification that they would soon be deported back to their third-world country. Multiple attorneys became involved; it was a tedious ordeal and everyone agreed their chances of winning their case were slim. All along, the family asked the church family to pray, but their Connection Group did so much more. They contacted congressmen, held fundraisers, wrote to the judge, etc. Then, they had a far-fetched idea: Suppose the Connection Group was to establish a college fund for one of the boys, with the condition that he must graduate from a U.S. high school to receive it. While it was obviously an attempt to manipulate the system, perhaps it would convince the judge that their church family was willing to put their wallets where their mouths were to keep them in the States. Unbelievably, those eight families committed over $9,000 to the fund! That, alone, was incredible. But, then it became a work of God: In the courtroom that day, the judge announced that his own sister had been in the Peace Corps and had been stationed in Suriname. He recalled her account of the devastating conditions and determined that the children could never receive a reasonable education in such an environment…especially given the generous college fund that had been established! They won their case that day and will receive their green cards in the mail this month—citizenship will follow closely behind. Praise God!
I was so proud of our little Body of Christ that day! It reminded me of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47, “they had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” That Group sacrificed in a way I’ve never seen any other church family do. As leaders of church-plants, we often attract people who’ve never been a part of church before—people without “expectations,” who are on-fire for Jesus and for their church family. Conversely, we also attract Christians who looking for something more authentic, personal, and radical than they’ve experienced in the past. When these people converge in a brand-new church, they are so exciting to be around! Instead of being stale or jaded, they’re optimistic, eager, and passionate. As leaders, we have the unique opportunity to form their impressions of what church should be—to point to Jesus and the Early Church and say, from the beginning, that is how we should love one another. And, when you finally get the opportunity to see it lived-out, it makes all of the struggles of church-planting totally worth it.