A message from one of our D6 Conference sponsors
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
I spent most of my childhood doing my homework in the dark under a burning gas lamp. My country in the Middle East was swathed in darkness, not just physically with only eight hours of electricity, but spiritually as well. Persecution fell heavy on my family as the only Christians in our village. At school, I was bullied for my faith. Christian resources were limited to a mere two hours broadcasted on a radio station, and poverty prevented even access to a radio to hear it.
Yet my parents did not hide their lamp under a basket. They continuously encouraged me to be content and keep my eyes on Jesus, modeling Christ’s call to “let your light shine before men.” Amidst rejection, war, and persecution, their commitment to sharing the Gospel prevailed.
And God used their faith to move mountains.
Our house was open 24/7 for anyone who wanted to pray or talk about Jesus. My family was a steady resource for discipleship, our home was a nurturing church for those who accepted Christ, and our very lives were on display as a beacon to those around us. There was no difference between what happened outside of our home and what happened inside—it was all about Jesus.
I witnessed lives being changed, even as we received death threats urging us to stop. A police officer changed from someone who wanted to kill my dad to someone who wanted to commit his life to Christ. That’s how powerful the Gospel is!
Still, loneliness was a daily battle. Often my heart sank deep within me as I felt the rejection from those around me. I was jealous of those countries I heard about where one could be surrounded by a thriving Christian body and have ready access to Christian resources. I remember praying that God would take me out of the Middle East to meet other kids my age who loved Jesus.
My mom often recited Psalms 23 in my ears every night before going to bed. She taught me to pray and bring all my needs to God, whether it was food, clothes, or to fill the loneliness in my heart.
I began talking to God like He was my best friend. As a young girl, I really wanted to have my very own toys like the other kids, and my family longed for a radio to listen to the news and the Christian radio station. My family couldn’t afford such things under the severe poverty we were in. But being a family of prayer, we were faithful in asking God to provide.
God pierced through the darkness and answered our prayers when I received a beautifully wrapped Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift packed by someone who loves Jesus and wanted to show me God’s love. Everything inside the gift was clean and colorful. Among the school supplies and toys, we found a small box that held a mini radio. Holding that gift, I was reminded that God is the God of details. In a very unique, ordinary way, he pierced through the darkness I was in and showed me that I am seen and loved by Him even when I was rejected by many. I didn’t feel so alone.
My parents saw the shoebox gifts as the perfect opportunity to reach the villages around us. Every village had its own character and beliefs, and one village, in particular, had never heard about the Gospel. My family had prayed for a way to reach them, and the shoebox gifts were the key to accessing the village, sharing the Gospel, and building relationships with the people who lived there. The door was opened to establish discipleship. It was incredible seeing evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication happen in a village where there was not one Christian before others. Witnessing that firsthand as a young girl made a profound impact on how I viewed the changing power of the Gospel, so that later, I was motivated to be an active part of the ministry my parents had modeled my whole life.
It’s hard not to compare life there with life where I am now in the United States. Growing up, we were starving for Christian resources and community, and now we have it in abundance. Our lives are not in jeopardy for our beliefs, and if we seek a body of believers we can find one. But my parents’ avid pursuit of evangelism and discipleship in the midst of desperate darkness was blessed with lives being transformed. Now, I want to do the same.
Our practice of lamp-shining should not be constrained to a Sunday morning service and a Wednesday night kids activity. We are called to let our light shine before others! In the home, out of the home, beyond Sunday worship and weekly Bible study. The way I hold my lamp will be a model to my children, just as my parents became a model of faith for me and my siblings.
May we as followers of Christ live our whole lives for Christ. May we shine our light bright before men, and may we be instruments of discipleship to those around us. My parents, the shoebox gift, the radio and Christian broadcast station, these were all tools for discipleship in my life. And when I pack shoeboxes with my family now, I know that I am partnering with the international body of Christ to create Gospel opportunities just like my family.
You can create spaces for the Gospel to shine in dark places. You can place tools for discipleship in the ready hands of ministry partners around the world. And you can impact the life of a child when you pack a shoebox that demonstrates God’s eternal love.
About Dania Yagado Andraos
Today, Dania serves as a National Spokesperson with Operation Christmas Child and she loves hearing many stories of God changing lives all around the world, as well as sharing her own story of God’s faithfulness throughout her life. To hear more encouraging stories like Dania’s or learn more about how you can get involved with Operation Christmas Child, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/occ.