What would it have looked like if the Apostles wrote letters home like missionaries write letters home? This is part of a series. Today, Melanie Stark shares Andrew’s perspective.
Dear praying friends and family~
It’s been a long few years for me as I continue in my pursuit to share the Good News of Christ. I have so far traveled through Pontus, Galatia, Bethynia, as well as at Antropophages; and afterward in Scythia, where many men, women, and children have surrendered to the calling to take up the Cross of Christ and follow Him. I have had some precious friends stay with me all through this traveling, and others that I thought would be strong voices for Jesus the Messiah, ended up turning and walking away from the Faith. More on this later in my letter.
As I sit here next to the Black Sea and take a few days to rest and refresh, much like how Jesus taught us, I find myself reflecting back on the years of travel around this region and the constant threat we have had on our lives for preaching Jesus’ message of Good News that leads to Salvation.
We have shared meals with some of the poorest people to some of the most elite and powerful in this region. Some continue to ask questions; others scoff and ridicule us. I could never have imagined what this journey would have been like all those years ago on the day of Pentecost. How could any of us ever have known that taking Jesus’s message to the outermost regions would have meant seeing some of the places I have seen! And to think, at one stage, I was content to just be a fisherman!
I remember those early days when I was fascinated by John the Baptist and his teachings. That was back before I had become a Follower of Jesus myself. John’s messages stirred something profound in me, and I longed for more. And as Simon and I would faithfully go out each morning, throwing our nets out to see how much we could catch to bring back to our father so he could sell it at the town market, I would ponder who this Messiah was. Would he be like Abraham, who was faithful? Would the Messiah be like Moses and build something impossible? Would he be like David, who destroyed a giant? Would the Messiah be like Solomon and be very wise and build the Temple? Or would he be more like the Prophets of old? The fiery Jeremiah, stoic Isaiah, faithful Daniel, or brazen Ezekiel?
On those good days of fishing and we had full nets, we were always so thrilled when father would come home with some extra coins to put away for when things got hard. And on the lean days, when the catch was small, I remember feeling ashamed that we couldn’t present father with more. But he was always so kind and patient with us boys, never missing an opportunity to teach. He would remind us to celebrate even the smallest of catches. Even if there was one fish, we would still not go to bed with empty bellies.
In many ways, that was my training ground for Jesus’ calling on that fateful day to make fishers of men. I bet He knew that on some days, or during certain seasons, we would bring in loads of “plenty” of fish—followers that were hungry to hear the Messiah’s message. These people were often ripe for harvesting. Whether it was from someone else sharing about Jesus of Nazareth before we arrived or stories of our forefathers passed down through generations. They had a contagious excitement that spread like wildfire when they shared with their friends and family.
Some of our richest moments were around the table. There was just an atmosphere that was almost palliative, pulsing with energy and purpose. There was rich laughter and beautiful stories of how others were coming to Faith and choosing to follow Jesus.
- Stories of neighbors helping neighbors in hard times.
- People stopping to help the poor and bring a meal to a grieving family member.
- And even other stories of folks helping rescue children off the streets, giving them a safe place to land and heal from the trauma they experienced living in the back alleys and brothels of the wicked. Just to see the smiling faces of these beautiful children, my heart can’t help but swell with pride, knowing that Jesus’ message is genuinely being lived out.
However, we have also had some tough “catches.” Nets that have torn in the process, fish that have gotten away, and some that were dead and rotting that infected the others we were journeying with.
As I lift my face to the gentle breeze coming off the water and hear the rustling leaves in the trees above me, I close my eyes for a minute. I am choosing to stop and feel those emotions as well.
Pain, loss, regret.
- People that I had trusted to stand by me when times got hard.
- People closer than a brother abandoned me when the threat of possible death came from the leading officials of the different towns we were ministering in.
- Some drew close and seemed interested in hearing about Jesus, only we found out later that they were gathering information to take back and sell us out for just a few coins.
Somedays, I fight with regret over trusting certain people that I had depended on to be part of my inner support system, who ended up disappearing on me when I needed them most.
I find myself reliving each one of these memories. From the first moments I heard about the Messiah from John to the day Jesus showed up and gently called me to leave everything behind and follow Him. I smile as I remember running off to find Simon and dragging him back to Jesus so he could listen to all that Jesus was sharing with us.
Once again, I look back out over the rippling water of the Black Sea. The sun is starting to set, and coolness is now in the air.
I am smiling, knowing that each of you has helped make this journey around the Black Sea possible. You have significantly sacrificed to help me keep going in this calling to reach the outermost parts of the region. Your words of encouragement, your letters that get delivered in the different ports I stop at, and even some of you who have come to walk with me for a while. I just can’t thank you enough!
I invite you to pray for me over these next few days of rest. That the Holy Spirit that is ever with me will refresh me for what lies ahead. I sense something in my soul that will not be easy. Even now, I feel a sense of dread that I am not quite sure I can explain. I have heard from others that many of my fellow Disciples have been murdered for continuing to share the Good News. My heart grieves for their loss. The world is a darker place without them here.
I hope that won’t be my story.
But I trust that if God has called me to walk through a hard place, He will enable me to be strong for what He asks me to do.
- Please continue to pray for the lost in this region. So many are hopeless, helpless, and in desperate need of the healing that only Jesus can provide.
- Pray that I will be bold in sharing.
- Pray I won’t shrink back in fear when a new wave of persecution arises.
- Pray as I meet with Maximillia, the wife of Aegaeas. She seems hungry to learn more about Jesus.
- And pray that Jesus will find me faithful daily with what He has called me to do.
- Praise that many have come to faith in Jesus across this region.
- Praise that I can spend a few days here, retreating and refreshing.
- Praise for the provisions we have needed to keep going from town to town, sharing about Jesus.
Thanks again to each of you! I couldn’t do this without you!
On your social media, copy the link to this blog and share your thoughts to the questions below. You can also leave a comment.
- When you have faced dark times, how did God strengthen you to shine even brighter?
- Without using names, how did you feel when the people you counted on abandoned you, and who are you praising God for that stayed with you in your spiritual journey or while serving in ministry?
- The Apostle Peter’s Letter To Supporters by Katrina Custer
- Philip’s Letter to Bethsaida by Philip Kendall
- Mary Magdalene’s Missionary Journey
- The Apostle John Writes To Supporters
Related Articles And Resources:
- Learn about Brian and Melanie Stark by clicking here.
- Would you like to talk to someone about serving with WorldVenture? Click here.
- Viewing The World Through Three Lenses
- How Internships & Short-Term Mission Trips Are Meaningful
- 40 Days Among Unreached Peoples
- Learn Religion