The parable of the lost sheep is a familiar story to most. Jesus tells us in Luke 15 about a shepherd who owns a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the flock. In his great desire to rescue the wayward animal, he abandons the rest and intently pursues it, risking the safety of not only the other sheep, but himself as well. Talk about dedication!
Recently, I was blessed to witness the divine pursuit of another lost sheep – a young woman named Natalis, who lives deep in the Amazon rainforest in a small village of indigenous heritage. The people there feel abandoned by their government after being relocated with the promise of abundant farmland and hunting grounds, which all-too-quickly proved untrue.
Our team was a blend of Americans and South-Brazilians, which was the first of its kind for Amazon Vision Ministries (AVM). At the direction of a local pastor, we were visiting several of his ministry sites with the desire to serve people and make known to them the love of God. On this day, that desire was manifested by providing medical care, holding VBS, and humbly listening to their hearts.
Soon after we arrived, two young professionals from our group volunteered to “mow” a large area that the villagers needed cleared. They donned weed-whackers and set to work, eager to help. But our team wasn’t there to just do yard-work, and we were concerned that we may be enabling slothfulness instead of making a kingdom impact. However, after prayer and conviction that their work held significance, the two labored throughout the morning and afternoon. Little did we know, the Good Shepherd was at work.
Since more land was being cleared, the afternoon VBS was able to spread out to play games with greater interaction. This allowed one of our South-Brazilian ladies to spend time in conversation with a young woman, Natalis, who was interested in our presence in her village.
As the sun descended, a simple, yet direct message on our created purpose was preached to the group gathered under a large tree. Natalis listened intently while staring deeply into her Bible. At the close of the service, she stood in tears to receive Christ, and we prayed over her with rejoicing! Her eyes glistened with the presence of the Holy Spirit – God’s lost sheep was found!
That night, we marveled over the Lord’s goodness in orchestrating her salvation. Think of the intricacy of this pursuit: a group of people had come together from two continents to journey into the Amazon and a pastor spontaneously agreed to bring us to this specific village, where a willingness to cut grass allowed a conversation with a woman whose heart was seeking and whose soul would be eternally changed in a simple open-air service that evening. Incredible!
In the parable, the shepherd could have simply moved on, considering it just another errant creature. But that was unimaginable – and the spiritual loss of this one woman was exponentially more unthinkable to God. Moreover, this level of desire is the same He has for each of us! What devotion by our Savior! What compassion from our Shepherd who knows – yet, still loves - the souls of all!
But the Good Shepherd isn’t finished yet. In Luke 19:10, Jesus explains that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”. There are still more sheep to be found, and He won’t stop until all of His beloved are gathered into His arms. As one of His children, He wants to use you to help in this mission. How are you allowing Him to work through you each day to accomplish this great task?