As I sat watching sheets of wind-driven rain pound against the side of my house in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, it seemed obvious: the Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) event that we’d organized and promoted for months was a wash.
It was October 24, 2012. I was serving as a missionary through Resonate Global Mission, and Hurricane Sandy—a hurricane that would become famous for the billions of dollars in flooding damage inflicted on New York and New Jersey—had just begun lashing Haiti. In 36 hours, I measured 26 inches of rain. Because the worst of the flooding was limited to Haiti's southern coast where 120 people died, Port-au-Prince, the densely populated capital where I lived, was spared from the worst of Sandy.
Still, as I drove to the conference center for the TLT training event through water up to the floorboards of the SUV, I figured it was a waste of time.
But upon arrival, I heard the rumble of a generator and the sound of singing. Over 30 energetic young Haitians had braved a hurricane to learn about pastoral care, stewardship, and preaching. Many of them literally had to wade into the building.
When I asked why so many people had come, the response was: “Pastor Zachary, we have been praying for God to use our conference to bless the church.”
Prayer is key to mission. If you think about it, it makes sense. No foolproof strategies, no captivating arguments, and no appealing stories can overcome sinful human resistance to the gospel. On our own, we just don’t—and can’t—“get it.” Paul himself said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18).”
While well-reasoned presentations and compelling stories have their place, it’s only the Holy Spirit who can prepare the human heart to receive the gospel. Jesus knew and understood this. That’s why he withdrew at key moments in his ministry to commune with his heavenly Father. Paul understood it, too. In Ephesians 6:18, he writes: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
If we want to see a movement of renewal in mission in the Christian Reformed Church, the place to start is in passionate prayer for the Holy Spirit to prepare hearts. Who would have guessed that 30 aspiring Haitian youth would come out during Hurricane Sandy to sharpen their mission skills? Only my Haitian colleagues who were convinced of—and acting on—the power of prayer!