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God’s Heart for One

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“Remember Nhu.”

God spoke those words into Carl Ralston’s heart and changed his world.

It was 2003. Carl, a businessman on a Christian and Missionary Alliance–sponsored trip to Thailand, had just heard the story of Nhu, a 12-year-old girl who had become a Christian but two years later was sold into sex slavery by her grandmother. He also learned a heart-wrenching statistic: about 1 million children a year, at that time, were entering the sex trade.

Within days Carl committed himself before God to doing all he could, until the day he died, to end the sex trade. “I knew God was calling me to a million children a year, but I also knew He had called me to an individual: Nhu.”

Finding her became Carl’s Spirit-driven quest. He learned that 90 percent of the Vietnam refugees like Nhu lived along the Mekong River in Cambodia, so in 2004 he traveled there. Carrying a photo of Nhu with several other girls, he stopped these refugees and asked through an interpreter, “Do you know any of these girls? Do you know how I could find them?”

Carl made a commitment to God that he would keep going back to look for Nhu until he found her. Over the next two and a half years he made six trips (each costing around $3,000) from America to Cambodia in search of Nhu.

“I would have spent every dime I had to find her,” Carl later affirmed, “because God said, ‘Remember Nhu,’ and I knew that meant He wanted me to help her.”
On that sixth trip he found her.

What is the explanation for such sacrificial and relentless searching? God had bared His heart to Carl Ralston. His heart for one.

The Lost Stories

Jesus does the same for us in the Lost Stories of Luke 15. There are three of them: the shepherd and his flock; the woman and her coins; and the father and his sons.

Each vignette deals with the lost and, ultimately, the found. The urgency is real; the search is earnest; the celebration is lavish—and the object of each is one.

Just one? Why not 20 or 50 or even 99 sheep to recover; nine lost coins to find; two prodigals to grieve? Bigger numbers for greater impact!

But no, each story revolves around one lost item. One sheep. One coin. One son. Jesus is telling us how deeply God cares about the one. He grieves its absence. It’s His preoccupation and Jesus’ reason for coming: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever [singular, meaning any individual] believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

So Jesus’ Lost Stories reveal the grief of God over the lostness of one. We see it in:

His passionate pursuit. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). God is the shepherd, in focused grief leaving the ninety-nine to go after the missing one. His heart is set on it.

His tireless quest. “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8). God is the woman painstakingly plying the broom in the far corners, with holy stubbornness and unflagging effort, pursuing the lost object of His love until it is found.

His intentional vigilance. “But while [the lost son] was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him” (Luke 15:20). Here God the Father actively pursues the one by planting himself on a high spot in the road, waiting resolutely and watching intently. Praying. Yearning. He never looks away.

A Praying Father

The Christian and Missionary Alliance has had such a father. In his book Timely Insights into Timeless Truths, Kenneth J. Brown recounts,

F. B. Meyer, the famous preacher, once spent a night as a house guest in the home of A. B. Simpson. Early the next morning, Mr. Meyer stole quietly downstairs, thinking he was the first one up.
But no; there through the partially open door to the study, he could see A. B. Simpson in prayer. He had a world globe in front of him, and he would put his finger on a spot, and pray. Then he would spin it, put his finger on another spot, and pray.

Then, as F. B. Meyer watched, “A. B. Simpson leaned forward, wrapped his arms around the globe, hugged it, and cried.”

Never himself a missionary, Simpson was the father who stayed at home and actively watched—who passionately loved an entire world but prayed for pinpointed places. Certain ones.

We who are The Christian and Missionary Alliance want the whole world to hear of Christ. We want to reap vast harvest fields with a vast army of workers. We want to bring back the King. Yes, God has called us to hug the whole world for Him.

But somehow, in the unfathomable MO of the Kingdom, that usually means putting our finger on one spot in our world and praying and working to win one. And one. And one. It doesn’t mean we can pursue only one lost soul at a time. But we can pursue only individuals. Ones.

Never Quit

So . . . what about you and me? Is anyone in our family outside the fold, rolled into a corner, gone to a distant country? Has anyone in our pastorate, on our mission field, at our school, etc., fallen through the cracks?

Has God whispered into our hearts the name of one such soul? If so, do we have His holy stubbornness for that one?

Do we feel His passionate, pursuing grief for them? Are our prayers for them Spirit-inspired, heartfelt, and intentional? Are we tireless, or easily put off by unrewarding searches and the unrepentant prodigal? Do we continue to sweep the corners of our world for the one, or does that precious soul lie forgotten, our search abandoned?

Today the organization Remember Nhu has 105 children’s homes and serves 1,850 at-risk children in 16 countries, showing them the heart of God and seeing more than 90 percent come to experience the joy of being found by Christ.

One man heard from God’s heart, picked up a broom, and swept into a far corner of the world until the lost was found.

Carl’s challenge to us? “When God asks you to do something like that, I hope you never quit.”

Right now, is God speaking quietly to your heart, to mine?

What is He saying?

Remember who?

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