Asia: Ghost holiday and a burden for the lost

Residents of an Asian city set off firecrackers and burn incense to ward off evil spirits and appease their ancestors.

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As we walked outside to get our scooters to leave our supervisor’s apartment, our supervisor rushed out to show us something. We had heard firecrackers go off all night, and he pointed out why: Ghost holiday.

bikes and scooters 300Bicycles and scooters line the streets of a busy Asian city.Just a few feet away, lining both sides of the sidewalk, were little areas, encircled with white powder, burning incense. Our supervisor told us that the people popped firecrackers to ward off evil spirits. They burn these things for their ancestors—to appease them and make them happy, so they won’t curse them. They worship their ancestors. 

I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk, staring at the small flames and smoke permeating the air. I just started praying, not really even sure what to pray or how to do it, but knowing the spiritual darkness and warfare that I had been struggling to see and understand had just reared its ugly head. A few minutes later, a family walked by me, and I saw them start to set up their own little area. The dad began to pour out the powder in a circle, and the mom and children placed the incense to burn inside. I just stood there and watched them. 

I watched them set everything up and light the incense. I watched the flames appear and smoke rise. I saw evidence of their belief that this will work and that they have to do this in order to honor and worship their ancestors, thus securing blessings and warding off bad times and evil spirits. I saw their hopelessness. And I saw two children who had no idea what was going on, playing with the fire across the sidewalk, completely unaware. The children and their parents had no idea of how lost, desperate, and hopeless they truly are. 

Bottom line: They don’t have the gospel. 

In a crowded city in Asia, most people have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.In a crowded city in Asia, most people have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.Our supervisors told us about a conversation they had with some national believers, a husband and wife. They were all talking about all the things going on in the world right now, in Asia and America, and in our own city. He talked about how there were recently three murders in and around our city. Two guys were fighting over a girl, and one of the guys slit the throat of the other. Another man was arguing with a store clerk and killed him. And a police officer directing traffic was stabbed. He ended up saying the reason these things happen, the reason these people do these things is “because they don’t have the gospel.”

The people live for, care about and watch out for themselves and do whatever they can to make sure they are ahead. Things are made cheaply and are not safe, just so they can cut a few corners and not spend as much money. They steal and lie and cheat. They take advantage of the poor and weak. They murder. And abortion is so common, it is talked about over a meal. There is no respect for the human life, at any age. And the only concern is for self. 

Because, bottom line, they don’t have the gospel.

But we have no reason to look down our noses at them and judge them. And don’t think that all of the people here are like that. I have met some of the most amazing and loving people here—both believers and unbelievers. But even though some of my unbelieving friends are sweet, caring and loving, they don’t know Jesus Christ, either. 

Please pray for them. Be burdened for them. See that all of these things that are happening, aren’t just happening in Asia. My supervisor was in a cab the other night, and the driver asked her about America. He said there are a lot of people with guns in America and a lot of people killing each other in America. Everyone knows what is going on in America right now. Recognize how unbelievably similar the problems in Asia are to the ones in America. 

And see the reason for all of the problems here in Asia is the same reason for all the problems in America.

We don’t have the gospel in America, either. That doesn’t mean there aren’t believers or healthy churches passionate about the gospel and proclaiming it. That isn’t what I’m saying. Because there are believers and a healthy church passionate about the gospel and proclaiming it here in my city, too. But every person in this city isn’t like that, just like every person in America isn’t like that. 

So be burdened for the people here. Pray for the people here. Do the same for those in America.

But ultimately, be burdened and pray for the lost in general. 

And seriously consider what we, as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, are to do in light of the vast number of lost people in Asia, America and all over the world.

We know what it looks like when people don’t have the gospel. We know the things that can and do happen. And we know that the gospel transforms, changes and heals. We know that the difference in believers and unbelievers is solely the gospel and the grace of God. We know that the change that happened in our lives was because of Jesus Christ, because of the gospel. And we know that no one can change if they don’t hear about the One who can change them. 

They don’t have the gospel.

But we do.

And bottom line, we know exactly what Jesus Christ has told us to do.

Jo, a student at West Texas A&M University, is serving with Go Now Missions in Asia. Her full name is withheld due to security reasons.

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