This past Sunday I preached from I John 2:15-17. Verse 17 declares, “He who does the will of GOD abides forever.” I shared the story of Dr. William Leslie, who went to live and minister to tribal people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After 17 years, he returned to the United States totally discouraged and disheartened. He did not see any fruit for his labor during those years. He died 9 years after his return, having died with believing his ministry had been a total failure.
But in 2010, a team led by Eric Ramsey with Tom Cox World Ministries made a shocking and sensational discovery. They found a network of reproducing churches hidden in the dense jungle where Dr. Leslie had served 84 years previous. They found a church in each of the eight villages they visited that were scattered across 34 miles. Ramsey and his team even found a 1000-seat stone “cathedral” in one of the villages. He learned that his church got so crowded in the 1980’s – with many walking miles to attend – that a church planting movement began in the surrounding villages.
Ramsey discovered that Dr. Leslie would teach the Bible, taught the tribal children how to read and write, talked about the importance of education, and told Bible stories.
Leslie died believing he had failed in his ministry. He didn’t realize he planted “gospel seeds” that others came and “watered.” As a result, GOD gave the increase. I Corinthians 3:6: “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD gave the increase.”
Paul offers this word of encouragement to us in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”