By Arthur Snijders
“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way.” Mark 8:2-3
Our pastors, workers, and church members have been hard pressed because of war and conflicts, harsh economic circumstances, persecution and costly opposition. Christmas 2016 is a time of not having enough, of going short, of not able to shield those we love from the harshness of the world.This Christmas will find many in our vast region in times of great need and little resources. Jesus looked at the people and saw that they were hungry to the point of collapsing on the way. We in Eurasia have witnessed this kind of need, among refugees, among children and elderly, among families and our churches.
Nazarenes of Eurasia Region, listen! Christ our Lord and Messiah has compassion for all those who have nothing to eat, and who are in danger of falling by the roadside out of sheer exhaustion and desperation. He does not turn His head away. He sees. He understands. He cares deeply. He tells us His disciples: “I have compassion for these people!”
His is a fierce spirituality.
Yet in our time of need we are called to deep and fierce faith in our heavenly Father.
When I was in a time of hunger myself during the year, the Spirit directed my attention to Moses’ words concerning Israel’s journey through the desert: “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word, that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut.8:3 NIV).
The Spirit of the compassionate Christ seemed to whisper: “The needs of the region and fields are to become tools in the hands of your Lord, rather than just adverse circumstances or difficult times.”
Don’t forget: The Lord caused us to hunger. I think that we in our churches are learning again that the way of holiness calls for deeper answers, which only God can provide. So, the Lord strips away much of what we rely on and considered a strength or resource, humbling us.
In tears, one of our leaders confessed before the participants in the refugee conference: “Yes, we need to open our hearts and give all of ourselves to those in need, but it really, really hurts.” No room for cheap answers in our region! No Christmas fairy tales that leave us hungry, without strength and hope for eternal life.
Our Eurasia context cries out for true holiness, in which Christ is meeting harsh Eurasia realities. God’s Word spoken is the only resource that sustains us and gives us courage for the journey.
This year Annemarie and I have witnessed Nazarenes prayerfully share food, time, love to many in order to provide hope in Christ. We have seen the loaves and fishes being broken, shared and multiplied. Christ is compassionate and able to do more than we can ever imagine and pray for. Let’s hold on to this Christ child with a daring faith.
Let us pray with a fierce trust this Christmas on behalf of those in our neighborhoods, nations and churches: “I will not let You go unless you bless me.” (Gen.32:26) …so that the people can eat and be satisfied (Mark 8:8).
May your Christmas be graciously abundant because of the compassion of Christ at work in your lives.
Arthur and Annemarie Snijders
Eurasia Region Director