During our recent mission trip to Moldova our ministry included visiting and taking food to elderly people in the area surrounding Kishinev Bible Church. Before we began our first morning of visiting we bagged the food we had purchased. Flour, sugar, oil, coffee, corn meal, canned goods, and more filled the sacks and spilled out the tops.
We went out in teams of three or four – two Americans and one or two Moldovan translators. When we rang a bell, the translators would explain that we came from America to bring them food. For some reason the fact that we were Americans opened doors that would not normally be opened. Yet even then many remained closed from fear or skepticism. When doors did open, we explained through the translator why we had come. Our goal was to share not just physical food with them, but spiritual, life-giving food as well.
Since many of the people we visited are lifelong members of the influential Eastern Orthodox Church they are religious. But religion does not equal a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we shared the Gospel message of Christ with them they often told us about how often they pray or go to church. Sadly, Moldova is not the only place in the world where religion hinders someone finding Jesus.
Many of those we talked with had also had visits from Jehovah Witnesses. Because of that, some would not listen to what we had to say. Others equated our message with theirs. One morning, while walking between apartment buildings I saw two women and two young girls pass by. This group of Jehovah Witnesses was out doing the same thing we were – sharing their faith.
At that moment a thought hit me hard. Without the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit the people we talk to will see us and our message no differently than they see the Jehovah Witnesses and their message. I cannot convince them that the Gospel of Jesus is truth. I cannot talk them into receiving Him as their Lord and Savior. I cannot argue them into eternal life. This is solely the work of the Holy Spirit.
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Cor 2:14
We cannot understand the things of God on our own. The Holy Spirit must give us understanding. God sends us to tell others about Jesus – in our neighborhood, in our city, in Moldova – but only He can empower the words for eternal life.
God’s lesson to me that particular day reminded me to pray that God would go before us at every visit. That He would empower our words. That He would give understanding. That He would do what only He can do. And He did! But more about that later!