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The Gospel on a Houseboat

In the middle of the ocean, a professor gives a powerful reminder of a foundational truth in the gospel.
In the shadow of the Himalayas, amid much cultural chaos, there rests a houseboat.

Though modest and rustic, for a few more days this boat ferries a brotherhood of young men, bringing a powerful light of love and truth into a region of great spiritual darkness. For nearly four months, these men have shared the truth about Jesus Christ freely to any who will listen. They have seen many listeners become friends, and their hope is to see many of their friends become brothers.

This group represent one of several teams in Midwestern College’s Fusion program, spread out around the globe this spring as a part of their freshman year missions experience. During my first year as Provost at Midwestern, I observed the rigorous physical and academic training these students received while on campus in Kansas City and wanted to see firsthand how their training paid off during their second semester abroad. Hence, that is how just a few days ago, I found myself on drafty houseboat half a world away in South Asia.

Living with this team of college students for the better part of three days taught me a great deal. I left grateful for them and for the supervision they receive from the full-time missionaries on the field. When asked to lead them in devotions one morning, I wrestled with what to share, as I was really the one doing the learning and receiving from them. However, given that these young men were nearing the completion of their months of service, had only sporadic contact with family and friends, were feeling the effects of the daily pressures of relational evangelism and acute spiritual warfare, I decided merely to tell them what we all need to hear the most.

The Gospel is Still for You

Just as Paul (Rom 15:15) and Peter (1 Pet 1:13) wrote to their disciples to remind them of the truth, I wanted to remind them of two things. First, I told them to remember that the gospel is still for them. Reflecting on Luke 7:36-50 and the account of the woman who loved much because she had been forgiven much, I said that she is like all of us. In this missionary context—where daily they see a lost world and the pursuit of sin and error—it is easy to forget that we who are in Christ were once just as lost.

Indeed, this woman reminds us that it is us who should be most mindful of what is at stake and what it is we deserve apart from Christ, and that should drive us back to the gospel and love for God. But an important part of this is the reminder that we love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). We weep at his feet because he died for us and took the punishment we deserve. I said to the students, “I don’t have many words to say here other than to remind you the gospel is still for you. I wanted to come and look each of you in the eyes and tell you that no matter what you have experienced—highs and lows—no matter what you are feeling or thinking—God loves you. He loves you, he is here with you right now, and the greatest reminder I can give is that the gospel is still for you.”

The Gospel Still Transforms Others

Second, I reminded them that the gospel still transforms others. Sharing from something I heard from a recent sermon on Luke 9, I read the story of James and John and there disparagement of the Samaritan people. However, thanks to the transforming power of the gospel, by the time Luke recounts the activities of John in Acts 8:14, he is seen then preaching to those he despised,—the Samaritans. I reminded the students that, as they have seen time and time again over the last few months, the greatest message they have to share is the gospel, and the gospel still transforms people. It is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16), and just as John was transformed in that he was now preaching and loving those he despised, God can use the gospel to transform even the hardest and most distant heart they have encountered in this land. God uses the gospel still to transform them as disciples and messengers, and it can still transform those they have come to love and also those that hate them and hope they never return.

While I was only with this team of students for a few days sharing their cramped quarters and eating their food, I loved every minute. And now, having returned just a few weeks ahead of these students, I am all the more hopeful for the days ahead. For even though just a hundreds of miles away from these students there has been a devastating earthquake, and in our country there is much strife and cultural disintegration, I am hopeful. I am hopeful because in the midst of these times there is still a God in control—a God who does not change. The gospel is still for you, and the gospel can still transform others—and God is still about that work all over the world. For, as just one example, in the shadows of the Himalayas, in the midst of much chaos, there rests a houseboat. And on that small boat, God has brought to a dark land a powerful light of love and truth.


Editors Note: This article first appeared on For The Church May 14, 2015. Used with permission.

About the Author

Jason Duesing serves as the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He came to MBTS after serving for more than a decade on the administrative leadership team and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Duesing earned his Ph.D. in Historical Theology and Baptist Studies from Southwestern Seminary in 2008. He also holds a M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary and a B.A. in Speech Communications from Texas A&M University in College Station.

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