For a few days, I had the privilege of spending time with the Wattier family, who has ministered there for several years, and a ministry team from Springfield, Georgia, who turned out to be an amazing group of servant hearted, survivalist ministers. I hold team members Mandi Johnson, Chandra Willis and her two children, Kristen and Aaron and Stephanie Deal in the highest respect. They each endured a rough, rugged trip and never complained. Instead, they displayed grace, love, help and hope to all who they encountered.
After our forever-long journey to Angeltok, I began the Pastor’s Conference I was asked to lead. I shared the concept that there is no depth to the understanding of God’s grace and that even the oldest and wisest minister in the meeting should be learning more and more about God’s grace each week. 1 Peter 3:18 says that we should all “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This passage is not written to only young or middle-aged Christians. It is also written to seasoned pastors, missionaries, and even saints who handle the Word of God daily and dissect and discern theology and truth all the time. God’s grace is ever expanding. In the course of teaching seventy to eighty ministers about God’s grace, I came upon even more truths about His grace! So here are the “grace notes” I discovered while in Uganda. Enjoy!
Grace Changes Everything
This is clear from the life of the Apostles and very clear in the life of the Apostle Paul. He was once a persecutor of Christians who sought to destroy the churches of the New Testament era. But after one powerful encounter with Christ, who could have easily destroyed him on the road to Damascus, he was transformed. He became a preacher who raised up and established healthy New Testament churches (Acts 9). As I taught my third and fourth lessons on how grace should permeate every aspect of church life, the ministers in the open-air “church hut” were having what seemed to be discussions amongst themselves during the break. I asked our translator to eavesdrop for me and to let me know what was troubling them. He told me that they were discussing how important it was to change now that the grace of God had become more clear. The intensity of the discussions was related to how fast and what kind of changes needed to be made within their church structures.
Grace changes people and softens hard, wounded and bitter hearts.
Zaccheus, the chief tax collector in Luke 19, was dramatically changed by his encounter with Jesus. John writes that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” Zaccheus gave half of his possessions to the poor and repaid all whom he had defrauded. Then there’s the adulterous woman in John 8, one of my favorite New Testament stories of grace. She is caught in the very act of adultery and is living in sin. On the way to her execution, she encounters Jesus and is “set free from sin.” Although she surely had a broken and wounded heart, she lived her afternoon free from sin, washed clean by the grace of Christ, who could have stoned her, but chose instead to free her.
While in Angeltok, there was a godly, elderly pastor who would walk me back to my campsite in the evenings. During one of these walks, he shared with me how the teachings of God’s grace had touched his heart. He was bitter and angry with the renegade rebel army leader General Kony, who only four years before had come through this very town and murdered his family and friends. As we walked, he pointed to a place in the road where pools of blood stood. He showed me where his family was murdered. He said that since then he has had only hate and resentment for this evil man. But hearing the story of grace and how Robert Cochran (one of my own elders at Northside) had taught me how to show love and grace to Saddam Hussein after his capture, this pastor in Angeltok had forgiven General Kony that very evening before chapel. Grace is really amazing when it moves deep in our hearts!
Grace happens in quiet, unexpected places.
Scripture is filled with this reality. The birth of Jesus happened in the small, obscure town of Bethlehem and yet His birth is some of the most precious and quiet grace ever offered to mankind. The beautiful rescue of the crippled fugitive farmer Mephibosheth from Lo-Debar in 2 Samuel 9 is also a great example. By the customs of the day, Mephibosheth deserves death or, at best, permanent exile in Lo-Debar (meaning “the land where nothing grows”). But into this obscure land come King David’s men who find Mephibosheth and from that day forward, he would regularly dine at the king’s table. I often wonder how such grace had been in Lo-Debar.
I saw the same grace in Angeltok, a place that is so far removed it does not even appear on the map. It is a remote place. It is an obscure place. But there, in the midst of Angeltok, I watched the Georgia team teach proper hygiene to the local women. I watched them share about the cleansing blood of Jesus and how our soul can be clean through His grace on the cross. And with prayers and raised hands, grace fell on many. I saw hundreds upon hundreds of villagers stand on their feet for over two hours watching the Jesus film. There was a three minute invitation at the end of the movie. Ninety-nine people of all ages came forward and signed a sheet indicating that they had received Christ and wanted a follow-up visit from the local church. Grace rained down upon this remote village in Angeltok.