"And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay." - Matthew 10:7-8
Evangelism can be as easy as knocking on your neighbor's door, or as simple as a small act of kindness for another.
However, in countries that are "closed" to the Gospel, evangelism is not that easy. Whether the country has a nationally declared religious system, or the social culture is built around a different faith than Christianity, it can be incredibly difficult to find ways to openly share the Gospel.
However, difficulty does not make evangelism impossible.
Since blatantly knocking on a neighbor's door and sharing Christ with them can get someone in serious trouble (or even killed) in certain countries, ministries like IDES and our mission partners must use different strategies for evangelism. At first, "strategic evangelism" can sound a little bit too business-like. However, it is not to gain a profit that we seek and practice different strategies. Rather, it is because of Jesus' love for us that we use creative and educational means to share the good news.
One of the most effective strategies is through providing medical care and/or public health promotion.
Recently, one of our partners in Myanmar hosted a trip for medical professionals who are followers of Jesus to serve remote Buddhist villages in desperate need of healthcare, and in even more desperate need of the Gospel.
"The purpose of this trip was to conduct 'Health Promotion Days.' The format of the Health Promotion Days included hands-on health care, health teaching, and evangelistic outreach," our partner said. "The team conducted seven of these days in mostly remote villages in Shan and Kayah states in Myanmar. Approximately 100 people participated in each village."
The population of Christians in Myanmar is relatively minimal, especially in these Buddhist villages. It is known by everyone living there that those who choose to follow Jesus are utterly rejected by their family and friends, and often persecuted by community leaders. So, the underground objective of the trip was to encourage the local Christian leaders in the village, as well as to raise the image of Christ's followers in the public eye through serving those in need.
"One village was very hesitant to allow our team to conduct the Health Promotion Day. They were very skeptical of Christians and we had to meet with village leaders before we could proceed. After a long meeting with the village health officer we were allowed to proceed but told to be cautious about what we said, especially concerning our Christian faith."
This was the foot-in-the-door that our mission partners needed. Even though the offer was heavy-laden with suspicion and skepticism, they now had the time and place to not only meet the physical needs of the village families through health education, but also to share the love of Jesus.
"As we began the health teaching it was obvious the gathered crowd of over 100 villagers wasn’t confident they wanted American and Burmese Christians in their village. However, as they day went on, they warmed up to us and our teaching. Before the day ended, we were able to present our Christian testimony and they provided a meal for us. In the end they were begging us to come back soon!"
Praise God! This is just one of many examples of love-produced evangelism strategies. Though what is really interesting about this method in particular is that it is not new.
Jesus, and his disciples after him, travelled from village to village meeting people's physical needs, then sharing with them the message of the Kingdom. Jesus instructed his disciples in Matthew Ch. 10, "And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay." We are merely following in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior. Being strategic with evangelism is not only a good method, but often times the most effective method.
"[We are] very grateful for a generous grant from IDES which allowed our team to have the medicines and supplies they needed to minister in Myanmar. With the help of IDES our team was able to present the good news of Jesus in places that had never heard the Gospel message before. Thank you IDES!"