Last week, as we were walking outside to get our scooters and leave our supervisor's apartment, our supervisor came outside and showed us something. We had been hearing firecrackers go off all night and he pointed out why.
Just a few feet away, lining both sides of the sidewalk were little areas, encircled with white powder, burning incense. Our supervisor told us they popped the firecrackers to ward off evil spirits. They burned these things for their ancestors – to appease them and make them happy so they wouldn't curse them. They worshipped their ancestors.
I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk just staring at the all the different things burning, small flames and smoke permeating the air. I just started praying, not really even sure what to pray or how to do it, but knowing the spiritual darkness and warfare I had been struggling to see and understand had just reared its ugly head.
A few minutes later, a family walked by me and I saw them start to set up their own little area. The dad started to pour out the powder in a circle and the mom and children placed the incense to burn inside. I just stood there and watched them.
I watched them set everything up and light the incense. I watched the flames appear and smoke rise. I saw the belief they thought this would work. They thought they had to do this in order to honor and worship their ancestors, thus securing blessings and warding off bad times and evil spirits. I saw the hopelessness. And I saw two children who have no idea what was going on, playing with the fire across the sidewalk, completely unaware. The children and their parents had no idea of how lost, desperate and hopeless they truly were.
Bottom line, they don't have the gospel.
Our supervisors told us about a conversation they had with some national believers, a husband and wife. They were all talking about all the things going on in the world right now, in Asia and America, in our very own city. He talked about how there were recently three murders in and around our city. There were two guys fighting over a girl, and one of the guys slit the throat of the other. Another man was arguing with a store clerk and killed him. And a police officer was directing traffic and was stabbed. He ended up saying the reason these things happen, the reason these people do these things is "because they don't have the gospel."
The people live for, care about and watch out for themselves, and do whatever they can to make sure they are ahead. Things are made cheaply and are not safe, just so they can cut a few corners and not spend as much money. They steal and lie and cheat. They take advantage of the poor and weak. They murder. And abortion is so common it is talked about over a meal. There is not much respect for human life, at any age. And the only concern is for yourself.
Because, bottom line, they don't have the gospel.
I don't say any of this to make you hate these people, look down your nose at them or judge them. And I don't want you to think that all of the people here are like that. I have met some of the most amazing and loving people here – believers and unbelievers. But even for my unbelievably sweet, caring and loving friends who are unbelievers, they don't know Jesus Christ either.
I say all of this because I want you to pray for them. I want you to be burdened for them. And I want you to see that all the things happening, they aren't just happening in Asia.
My supervisor was in a cab the other night and the driver was asking her about America. He then told her that there are a lot of people with guns in America. That there were a lot of people killing each other in America.
Everyone knows what is going on in America right now, I don't have to spell that out for you. I want you to see how unbelievably similar the problems in Asia are with the ones in America.
And I want you to see the reason for all of the problems here in Asia is the same reason for all the problems in America.
We don't have the gospel in America either.
Is that to say that there aren't believers or healthy churches passionate about the gospel and proclaiming it? No. That isn't what I'm saying. Because there are believers and a healthy church passionate about the gospel and proclaiming it here in my city, too. But every person in this city isn't like that, just like every person in America isn't like that.
So be burdened for the people here. Pray for the people here. Do the same for those in America.
But ultimately, be burdened and pray for the lost in general.
And seriously consider what we, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, are to actively be doing in light of the vast number of lost people in Asia, America and all over the world.
We know what it looks like when people don't have the gospel. We know the things that can and do happen. And we know the gospel transforms, changes and heals. We know the difference in believers and unbelievers is solely the gospel and the grace of God. We know the change that happened in our lives was because of Jesus Christ, because of the gospel. And we know no one can change if they don't hear about the One who can change them.
They don't have the gospel.
But we do.
And bottom line, we know exactly what Jesus Christ has told us to do.
Jo*, a student at West Texas A&M University, is serving as a Go Now semester missionary in Asia.
*name has been changed.