15 Jun Fruit That Lasts: A Second City Story
The following is a guest post from Ashton Eleazer, a rising Junior at UNC-Chapel Hill who is serving for the summer in Southeast Asia on one of our Second City teams.
I arose to the clicking of what sounded like staples from the construction across the street. After rubbing my eyes I felt a miraculous wave of energy, a rarity in a city that’s humidity can suck the life out of you. I decided to bike to one of the few coffee shops open before noon and hydrate on living water (aka the Word). Pedaling down the alley ways and unmarked streets, I tried to navigate off the landmarks I remembered the best I could. Right then a car jolts out right into me and my liberating morning biking experience crashes to the pavement. I was fine and biked along home.
This example is just one of the daily reminders that adapting to a city of organized chaos requires a lot of patience and persistence. Sometimes ministry here doesn’t look like I envisioned. There are many barriers to work on the field, such as language, culture, conflict, spiritual warfare, etc. At the end of my first week I felt like I had accomplished nothing because I didn’t meet any new students, I barely shared and I knew I could have served the field partners better. But in his kindness, God has been showing me that to think in this way would be to miss the essential piece of why I am there. I am not here to do things, I am here to be a disciple. Being a disciple begins with being with God. The concept sounds simple and it’s not like I failed to read my bible that week, but after being supported to go overseas and spread the good news it’s easy to believe this unspoken lie that our progress is based on conversions. Most jobs produce results that are tangible, but this type of “job” does not yield any type of product an investor can see. Our entire time this summer could consist of planting seeds and never even seeing them grow, and we’d be in good biblical company. In Acts, we see that Stephan surrendered his life to preach the gospel and never saw the fruit that came from his sacrifice, but he did behold the greater picture of the cross that made his death worth the risk. God promises in Psalm 86:9 that, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” I can be confident, then, that he will redeem His appointed in this city regardless of if I’m here to see it.
Because of this truth, I’m learning that above all else my purpose here will be fulfilled as I praise God, know Jesus and then advance His gospel through the power of the Spirit. As I praise God and abide in Jesus, I fall more in love with his character every day – the by-product of that love is being formed into His image, and the by-product of that image is Christ being proclaimed in word and deed to a watching world. We are called to love our teams, our cities, and our lost friends, but we cannot possibly do those things without first loving our God and resting in his supreme grace that then gives us the ability to do everything else. The fruit of our labor is not necessarily the fruit of salvation, but the fruit of a spirit that worships Him above all else in this place where so many are worshipping other things.
One of the ways that I’m learning to practically put these things into practice is by celebrating the little victories. There’s always something to praise God for — learning a new word in Chinese, encouraging the team, navigating the metro or trying a new food that was delicious. Unfortunately, we can so quickly get caught up in only praising God for the spiritual fruit we want to see that we often forget to praise Him in the day-to-day for all these “little” ways that He is moving. But He is always moving and working, and much of the fight of the Christian life is learning to see and praise Him for that work, both big and small.
Will you pray with me, that God would help me to continue to abide in Him and give thanks in every circumstance, and that He will use that obedience to change the hearts of the individuals in this nation to glorify His name?