A Group With the Heart of Epaphras
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis” (Col 4:12-13)
With excitement we were packing up, selling our home, writing our wills, and attending travel health appointments. In a matter of months we’d be flying overseas for the first time in our lives, to join a church planting team in East Africa.
Part of our preparations included a visit to a prayer meeting, hosted by our organization’s provincial committee members, where they could meet us, hear about our upcoming work, and pray with us.
Not sure what to expect, this young couple stepped through the front door, met with love and kindness. Perhaps to our surprise, the gathering was primarily seniors, a group of retired missionaries. A few had served overseas together, but all shared a passion for God’s work in the world and for the feet of those who carry it.
This group faithfully prayed for us every month for years as we were away, whenever we were home we’d visit them and be refreshed. As we came home for the last time, these devoted ones didn’t stop praying as our daughter became sick and we spent months in hospital; they tenderly ministered with visits and prayers.
These saints hold a deeply special place in my life.
As we gathered for the annual summer barbeque, I considered their legacy - not for the first time. The years pass by, we all grow older, and my admiration for their ministry only continues to expand. I was once again humbled and challenged.
They never stopped their mission work.
A variety of reasons led them back from the field. But they always found places to serve and people to bless. Through hospital visits, distributing bibles, building up those they’d trained overseas through emails, their influence unwavering.
It reminds me of the apostle Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, continued writing letters to encourage the church. Penning the words to the church in Philippi he reflects on the opportunities he has, even there, to make the gospel known; the whole imperial guard knew. His example bolstered the believers to continue in evangelism (Phil 1:12-14) with strength and courage.
In Epaphras, too, we see this labour of love, intentional and obedient for the kingdom of God, striving for the Gospel to go out and for the increasing maturity of believers.
May we be those who don’t shrink back from our purpose as light in a dark world, but ones who make the most of every opportunity, always prepared with a reason for our hope and poured out in serving the church.
They never stopped praying for missions
Going out as a young couple into the unknown, we were naive.
Not until we began to understand more of our host environment did we see the challenges and hardness of heart toward the gospel. This committee at home already knew much prayer would be required for seeds of the gospel to find fertile soil.
Praying, not only for the work, but also for us and our spiritual growth and discernment. They modelled Epahras’ struggle in prayer for the Colossians’ ongoing maturity - a continual wrestling before the Father for the worker and the work.
God’s kingdom work isn’t just about what we do, but who we are becoming.
Holy living is a cumulation of knowledge moving from our head, to our heart and to our hands. The Lord is pruning us, leading us and shaping us into His likeness, so that we bear more fruit and that it will be such that will last.
Praying for the harvest includes prayers for unreached lands and peoples, but also for more workers to be sent out (Matt 9:38), for their boldness (Eph 6:19) and for their steadfastness (2 Cor 4:7-18).
May we those who don’t shrink back from seemingly mundane efforts of prayer, but believe with passion and conviction of God’s work in the world, His choice to use us in the work and answer the missionaries' eager desire, “pray also for me.”
Lessons I’m Learning
As I consider their faithful legacy, I ask myself questions, evading the comparison trap, yet deeply considering, and admiring the steadfast example of these saints. Paul writes, “be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1) and as I long to be more like Jesus, I want to learn from those who go before me.
Making the most of every opportunity. Whether I’m riding a bike along the dusty trails of East Africa or jogging the paved path in suburbia, tending to the sick in a mud hut or the overflowing waiting room of my ER, God has a purpose for every moment, every person who comes across my path.
I’m reminded to keep this at the forefront throughout my day, even after my morning prayer as I cross the parking lot and through the ambulance bay.
Gathering. I flip through my prayer cards each morning, yet though we pray individually, there's community and something special when we gather in groups to pray. This committee has the secret sauce when it comes to loving others.
A family from the mission came to share about their work in Africa while we sat in the backyard under clouds threatening rain. As they reflected on their journey, they realised they’d been serving overseas for 20 years. One of the grey heads in the crowd quietly murmured, “Huh, I guess that means I’ve been praying for you for 20 years.”
I humbly considered who - other than my family - I’ve been praying for that long.
There’s the secret sauce of love.
What you can do:
-If you’re local to me, DM me about coming to the prayer meeting!
-If you’d like to pray informatively for your missionaries, download my free ebook, “Expect Great Things” to guide you as you pray (sign up below)
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42)