By Robert Menzies |
As I stepped through the wooden gate that framed the entrance to the mud brick home, I felt like I was walking back in time. The rickety dwelling was not much different from many that had existed three hundred years ago. Auntie Xu also had a timeless quality about her. She was clearly well over 70 years of age, but her eyes sparkled with life and energy. As our small group entered the courtyard that formed the center of her home, she enthusiastically greeted us and asked us to sit and talk. Even as she spoke and gestured, she began to hunt for stools that might accommodate our group. To my amazement, she climbed a steep and narrow stairway and disappeared into the darkness above. Moments later she returned with stools in hand and motioned for us to be seated. “Auntie” (as we called her) was incredibly spry for her age and clearly sharp as a tack.
After some small talk about our respective histories, Auntie began to open up. She spoke of her husband’s physical challenges and then mentioned her own needs. It was not easy at her advanced age to care for her ailing husband. Her back was giving her fits. This White Yi village has a three hundred year history, yet virtually no knowledge of Jesus and the Gospel. A temple dominants the landscape and from experience I know that the villagers regularly worship the false gods made by human hands that the temple houses. We have formed close relationships and repeatedly shared the gospel with several ladies from the village. The ladies are open to our message about Jesus, but afraid to make a break from the idol worship of their past. They feel that they will become outcasts in their own village if they take this all-important step. We are praying for a spiritual breakthrough.
As Auntie spoke of her challenges and particularly her back pain, I felt led to pray for her. I told her that we were Christians and briefly described how Jesus had come to our world to save and to heal. I asked if she would like for us to pray for her. Her eyes beamed brightly as she responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” So, along with a team of students from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, I gently laid my hands upon Auntie and prayed for Jesus’ presence and healing touch to come upon her. As I began to pray, Auntie fumbled in her pocket and pulled out all of the money she had and offered it to me. She repeatedly and insistently attempted to give me her money, and it was no small amount. I told her that we would not take her money. We were only giving her what Jesus had freely given us. Finally, with some difficulty, we were able to convince her that it was o.k. for her not to pay and we prayed for her.
When we left Auntie’s home and walked out into the narrow cobblestone lane of the village, I couldn’t help but think of the nearby temple. In the temple you must pay for everything: to enter the grounds; for the joss sticks one must burn; for the monks to pray; and for prophecies of the future. Everything comes with a price. I was thankful that God does not place a price on our salvation or his gracious gifts. Suddenly, I was surprised to see Auntie racing down the narrow path behind me. She lifted up a bag with two squash. It was her gift of thanksgiving. I gladly received her gift and prayed that one day soon she would give praise and thanksgiving directly to the Creator who loves her deeply and who has demonstrated His love so beautifully and powerfully in Jesus.