Back in 2003 I felt I heard the Lord say to me that this was the year that He was going to renew my faith. I did not know that my faith needed renewing at the time, but four months later I found myself in a strange land, drinking an orange Fanta in the dry heat of an African afternoon, sitting in a land rover next to a man with a smile and joy to match the sun.
We were waiting for a shipment of beans to feed six thousand Malawians who had walked for days for an inter-denominational Christian gathering hosted by Iris Ministries. It was 'Africa time' so we had time to talk. And it was there I heard his story - my faith was definitely renewed.
'Pastor Surpresa', Surpresa (Surprise) Sithole, was woken up from a nap in his mid teens by a 'voice' that told him to pack his things, leave his village, otherwise he would die. The second time the 'voice' came it was so loud it apparently rattled his mat. (Sound familiar? I think of Samuel in the Old Testament). So young Surpresa packed his bag and left his family (later an illness came to his village and many people died).
Walking for days he found himself at a house, whose owner was a Christian, who told Surpresa about Jesus. Surpresa's response was 'this must be the Lord' and gave his life to Jesus. After this he was taught by angels by night (yes I did just say that). Two years later they stopped visiting him after he received his first Bible. "Everything they taught was in it".
Surpresa became a lover of God and instant evangelist. He did not tell me then, and rarely speaks of it (because of reverence of God) but at that time, God had used him to raise 11 people from the dead. His love and humble relationship with the Lord led fearless decisions in the story of his life. My faith was definitely being renewed.
But today my purpose is not only to share about meeting Pastor Supresa (find his books including his biography on the web). I want to introduce you to another friend who is in part the answer to Supresa's prayer back in 2003. In an email from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he shared his heart's response after witnessing the plight of those suffering in rebel territory, and area where the UN refused to go, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few', Surpresa said. 'Where are the workers for the harvest'? (Matt 9 verses 37-38). Please pray for Congo Surpresa, asked me.
A year and a half later I met one of my best friends and part of God's answer to Surpresa's prayer: Cassandra Bassnet. She reminds me of theologian Frederick Buechner quote, 'Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world's greatest need'.
Recently I finished a Master's Course on Spiritual Formation and Personal Development where I was able to read some of the great spiritual formation thinkers and writers. I especially liked the term Vocation. According to James Peck it means 'calling', or 'what someone is called to do' (which does not have to coincide with one's occupation). "Vocation implies a relationship. If someone is being called, someone must be doing the calling".
I met Cassandra Bassnet at Iris Ministries' first International School of Missions in 2005. At that time she was the ripe ol' age of 18. Ten years previous she was an 8 year old feeling a call to be a missionary in Africa, at the age of 10 she felt it was specifically Congo. After our school in Pemba Mozambique, she was able to join some others on a short visit to Congo, which furthered her desire to end up there.
Seven years later she leads 'Justice Rising', projects located in war zones and brothels in the DRC, Eastern Kenya, and Somalia (in coalition with GCM, Iris Global, and Hope for the Nations). Like Surpresa, she went into the rebel territory where the UN refused to go, and entered into the story of hope and love of Christ for child soldiers, rebels, pastors, woman who have been raped, including building sustainable farms, schools, homes for orphans and so on (please visit www.pursuingnormal.com to hear it through Cassandra's own words).
Cassandra and her new family in Congo are learning together that nothing separates them from the love of Christ… not trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword.
But the journey is the destination, as they say. Because God is actually interested in a relationship with us, one that develops through time, challenges, questions, vulnerability, faith, community and communication. Like the biographies I had read when I was younger, I have gleaned so much from Cassandra's story. Not just from what is happening now in Congo, but through her journey getting there as well, through her relationship that is developing with the Lord.
Next time I'll tell the story of Cassandra's astonishing formation of faith and passion for mission that has done so much to renew my own faith and passion in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Andrea Earl is Canadian and resident of NZ. After high school to Capernwray Bible School in Auckland, returned to Canada finishing a BA at Providence and recently completed a Master's of Min., St Stephen's University (started while running art programs in Toronto for street youth). Andrea loves the arts, music and the outdoors.
Andrea Earl's previous articles may be viewed www.pressserviceinternational.org/andrea-earl.html