Reaching the Ends of the Earth
Have you ever tried to capture the radiant beauty of a Tennessee sunset or an early morning sunrise reflecting off the ocean water?
Maybe your first thought is, “Lord, thank you for allowing me to experience this moment.” Maybe you’re also thinking, “I really want others to experience this.” So, you pick up your phone to take a picture to share. Looking through the phone’s camera lens, the colors are bold and vibrant. But when you look back at the picture your phone captured, it pales in comparison.
This is what I feel right now. I want you to see it. I want you to experience it. I want to capture in words what the Lord did in and through the 2023 Jungle Pastors’ Conference in the Amazon. But words fail to express the bigness and the power of the week. So, my hope is that one day you will be able to experience this firsthand.
They traveled for days – 115 pastors, wives, and other ministry leaders from 60 riverside/indigenous communities and interior cities of the Amazon – where often food, education, resources, support, and biblical community are lacking. Many arrived feeling discouraged, isolated, hungry for food and hungry to learn. They spent five days with us. Actually, we spent five days with them. Five rich days of learning, encouragement, love, tears, laughter, hugs, nourishment, rest, and spiritual renewal. Together, we grew in the study of God’s word, were reminded of the importance of guarding our hearts, and practiced finding rest in the Lord.
Although the language is not the same, deep connections and forever friendships were formed as we worshiped the same God together. We taught them the importance of hermeneutics. They showed us what it looks like to truly depend on the Lord. They persevere in ministry with such bold faith but with little time to recharge and rest. Devoted to their calling to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth, they rely on the Lord to sustain them, to provide for them in ways that we most likely will never experience. But looking back, I think in so many ways they are much richer than we are. Their dependence on the Lord is often so much greater – there is so much to be gleaned from them.
Discouraged, destroyed, defeated, sad, lonely, ready to give up. These are some of the stories we heard at the beginning of the week. Filled with gratitude, fresh new vision, hopeful, encouraged, healed, ready to serve, ready to share – these are the testimonies shared at the end of the week. Exhausted, overwhelmed, discouraged – this is how I felt stepping into our trip to the Amazon. Spiritually renewed, rested, a heart overflowing with gratitude that God would allow me to step into this space, a heart overflowing with gratitude that God would allow me to serve in this way – this is where I am now. I went to serve and pour out but once again, I received more than I gave.
I know my word picture can’t accurately capture what occurred this week. But I hope that you at least have a better understanding of how God is using JMI to support, train, disciple, and care for ministry leaders who are truly spreading God’s love to the ends of the earth. I hope you can one day see it for yourself. But until then, I hope you will pray and support the work that God is doing in this place.
– Kathy Koon, Counseling Director at Rolling Hills Community Church