(Lessons and Observations from Ezra and Nehemiah’s Projects)
What keeps us going when we face obstacles? What if the facts known to us say that we are up against formidable difficulties? How do we remain resolute when we face hurdles within our own organization? What are we promised and how do we pray?
The reconstruction projects undertaken in the Old Testament by former exiles were a long prelude to national rebirth. It was a century of rebuilding marked with strong opposition, stagnation, and times of despair under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua; Haggai and Zechariah; Ezra, and Nehemiah.
The returnees under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua endured years of antagonism and political interference but did not waver in their determination to accomplish their God-given tasks.
Nehemiah during his wall construction faced frequent external threats, fatigue among the volunteers, and lack of cooperation from some of the local leaders. Additionally, he had to deal with social injustice.
The leaders of this time remained resolute, reminding themselves of God’s history with them and of His promises given nearly 1,000 years prior. Records of their private prayers show deep concern for the welfare of the people they led as well as confidence that God would come to their aid. They took practical steps to ensure the safety of both the people and the projects entrusted to them.
At an EMAS Canada team meeting this past month I sensed the heartache of leaders as they wrestled over issues such as the inability to contact local partners, to give encouragement to colleagues in dire need, working under adverse conditions and with limited financial support. Concern was expressed over equipment whose maintenance was overdue and potentially going to waste.
At an Asia team meeting, lengthy discussion was held about serving remotely, the challenges of time zones and need for simultaneous translation during video conferencing, and the effects of firewalls impeding international communications.
Another team has putting off plans until further notice but using the interim to support their local partner hospital with vital equipment.
What Can We Expect?
We enter the second half of this ministry year knowing that we will not have teams traveling in 2020. Furthermore, we are unable to plan for 2021, for we do not know if or when the countries we serve will be open to international visitors or be safe to enter.
Nevertheless, it has been satisfying to attend team meetings where half the time is spent in prayer and half on preparing for the day they will travel.
During one Asia team meeting the leaders directed the team to our calling as the lens through which to view new and exciting service opportunities: they asked important purpose related questions:
What is the evangelistic Christian value of this opportunity?
What is the gospel? When do we say it has been proclaimed?
EMAS teams and board continue to meet, to plan, to raise funds, and to engage with overseas partners; looking forward with unfading hope, that God will accomplish what He has set out to do through us.
We press on insistent on remaining loyal to those we serve because our long-term commitment is in fact an extension (albeit it temporal) of God’s eternal purpose.
Studying Ezra and Nehemiah, and their labour intense projects, I observe that their endurance was the result of clarity about God’s purpose, and because they had definite pronouncements from God, they confidently approached Him through prayer.
They had promises of divine intervention in their immediate reconstruction projects, and an awareness of being part of a grander program; the people they led would learn that their work was preparatory to God’s plan of amnesty for all humanity. That Grand Program was still 400 years away. The two leaders, Haggai and Zechariah, gave God’s assurances of help for the immediate day-to-day challenges and spoke prophetically of events four centuries into the future.
One practical application from these ancient projects is that EMAS should emerge out of the pandemic with a leadership whose endurance is rooted in the eternal purposes of God, whose grasp of God’s promises is shown through prayer.
Join us in prayer:
We are offering a prayer checklist here.
Feature Image: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)