Missions is to the Church what exercise is to the person–it promotes health, strength, and focus. I have personally been challenged by the Biblical and theological challenge of missions, of having to think sharply in response to various questions raised either in the missions context or in the context of the Church supporting missions.
This prayer, however, serves to illustrate that missions in the Middle East, and in fact elsewhere, also serves to remind us of the history of the Church and of God’s work in the world. I think of visiting a Lutheran mission Church, now officially a museum, in one country in Asia where the Church is officially regulated. The authorities have intended to suggest that the Church is relegated to history, only preserved in a museum and old papers. Yet, our brothers and sisters in that area told me that the fruit of those missionaries continues in that area. The believers from that lineage may in fact be decreasing in number, but their presence is an encouragement to the new movements taking place in the same vicinity, that the new believers and new gatherings are the answers to the prayers of the brothers and sisters commemorated in that museum.
So likewise, as we pray for Syria and Egypt, we are not praying as if God has forgotten the Middle East, or as if God has done nothing there for the last two thousand years–quite the contrary, we pray rejoicing that God has been faithful throughout the centuries, and trusting that in the face of the current storms, God, who lifted the rainbow into the sky and whose Son walked across the stormy sea, will yet speak again, “Be still,” and it shall be. In the meantime, we pray for our brothers and sisters that they will be strengthened and that their witness today will bring glory to our Father and encouragement to their neighbors.