By Dr. Conrad Van Dijk
In his book, the Hope Quotient, author Ray Johnston says that the best thing you can give anyone is hope. I mention this book because it came with me to Sierra Leone in February, stuffed away in my suitcase along with my Bible and another book written by Dutch Sheets, called The Power of Hope. As you might guess, hope was the main part of our transformation workshops, along with the principles of prayer evangelism.
And it was when we talked about hope that we got into our best discussions with the local townspeople.
We know that in his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul teaches that faith, hope and love are critical in life. I’ve seen lots of great teaching out there about faith and love, but lately I’ve been reading up on hope. Hope is not just a part of the name of our ministry, but a tangible thing that I want to inspire in others and have in myself. Our God is the God of all hope, and over the past few years He’s taught me a lot about having hope.
Learning what hope is
What is hope? I found the answer lying on my bed, long into my recovery process from a terrible car accident that caused me serious injury and ended the life of my wife Anna. One morning I woke up and it really hit me that Anna wasn’t with me anymore. I lay there not wanting to move, feeling very sorry for myself. I’d had, and still have, my moments of grief, but this time I felt the Lord impress two simple options upon me: “You can remain sorry for yourself, or get up and make the best of it.”
I had a choice, and that’s when I realized what hope is. Hope is a choice. If I have faith in God’s love, it gives me hope, and hope can lift, encourage, and put a man’s feet back on the floor to stand up and take another step forward in the strength He freely gives to us, if we’ll receive it.
To go to Sierra Leone is to step into a nation of grief. Loss of loved ones is almost a daily occurrence in that country. When I shared in our workshops about my loss of Anna and what God’s taught me about hope through it all, there suddenly was a connection between us. They knew that I understood what so many of them have experienced: pain, grief, and sorrow. This has been a strong basis for relationship.
The fruit of hope in action
But it hasn’t stopped there. Using the principles of transformation outlined by Dr. Ed Silvoso, I could share with them the hope of the Almighty that empowers us in ways we can’t fully imagine. It’s a kind of hope that can power a nation to seek out restoration, revival and renewal.
On this most recent trip we travelled in our team of 6-10 pastors speaking in churches and other places. We continued to follow the steps of prayer evangelism: speaking peace, fellowshipping and meeting the felt needs of the communities, and then proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. As a result, we’re seeing an abundance of fruit in return!
There are now fewer mud huts in Freetown, and instead more durable and secure concrete houses are being built. In Wongotown, where the population is almost entirely Muslim, our team reports over 60% of the community have come to Christ because of the Lord’s work through us. Schools are thriving and the people have more work. I even attended a pig and poultry conference – I am a vet, after all – and afterwards I met with the chairman and other poultry leaders to discuss how to build up local veterinarian services.
This is the kind of hope the Bible speaks of and as we are being transformed, we can share this hope for others to embrace. Hope can be the size of a mustard seed, but Jesus teaches that extraordinary things can come from that tiny Kingdom seed. I hope to keep planting seeds for many years yet.
– Conrad Van Dijk lives in Hamilton, Ontario and is the founder and director of Hope for Sierra Leone, a dedicated ministry of Transformation Canada seeking to eliminate systemic poverty in Sierra Leone.