I love reading novels, or watching movies about the Second World war, and how the resistance in different countries tried to organise itself in an effective way. I’m intrigued by the fact that the church in general was so silent when Hitler came to power, and that someone like Bonhoeffer (a German theologian) was so much the exception.
Recently Arthur and I watched the movies, Dunkirk and Darkest Hour. Both depict how the British army was trapped in France in May 1940. Large numbers of British and French troops were cut off, and surrounded by Nazi soldiers. It seemed as if the whole British army was going to be destroyed. Members of the British staff thought that only 25 percent of the British soldiers could be evacuated. There simply weren’t enough navy vessels to pick up people.
And then, on May 26, Winston Churchill, the new British prime minister, made an unprecedented move: he made an appeal to all the owners of small boats to sail to Dunkirk and participate in what was called “Operation Dynamo.” About 850 little boats and ships answered the call. Between May 26 and June 4, 338,226 soldiers were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. There were 43 formal navy ships involved, but the majority of those rescued were carried by hundreds of private fishing boats, yachts, pleasure craft and lifeboats from Britain.
I feel emotional when I see these “ordinary” people involved in a rescue effort like Operation Dynamo, which helped to determine the outcome of the Second World War. I see a parallel with the relationship between the church and the mission. People in Eurasia are trapped because of the power of sin, or because there are systems that keep people in poverty and situations of abuse. Jesus has come to this world so that people can be saved, and that transformation can happen. But people need to hear, they need to see, they have to feel and experience that accepting Jesus is Good News.
The mission cannot be fulfilled only by the few missionaries that we have. We need the principle of Operation Dynamo – that everyone must be involved – for God’s rescue operation of the world. We must appeal for people to step into their boats, take the risk, and sail out to where God wants them to be. It is the ordinary people that made the difference with Operation Dynamo; the same will happen when lay people will answer the call that God has made upon their lives.
Christine Cleveland writes: “People can meet God in their own cultural context, but in order to follow God, they must cross into other cultures, because that is what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. Discipleship is cross-cultural.” (Quoted in Canoeing the Mountains by Ted Bolsinger)
Will you become part of God’s rescue operation?
Written by Annemarie Snijders (Eurasia Region Mobilization Coordinator) and previously published in the September 2018 edition of Where Worlds Meet edition.