by Amy, Bible School for the Nations student
It was our last day in Central Asia. I looked around at my three teammates and our twelve students, amazed at what a privilege it was to teach in this condensed discipleship class. Our students were from three central Asian people groups where persecution of Christians is very real.
These students set aside their ethnic differences and schedules to come together and be discipled for one month. Some of the students were only months-old in their Christian life. Three had been baptized just weeks before. Our small Bible School for the Nations (BSN) outreach team had walked into an incredible Spirit-charged atmosphere, fresh with new life and thick with the reality of religious persecution.
The week had been everything we prayed for. Our teachings on Identity in Christ and Spiritual Warfare were well received. In fact, they were completely new concepts for many of the students. Earlier that morning, as my team prayed for the day, God brought to my mind the verse from Revelation 22:2. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
The verse didn’t seem to have anything to do with what we were talking about. Still, I wondered what God was trying to say. So we prayed about this verse, asking God His plans for our new friends and the people groups they represented. Then we headed downstairs for our final teaching of the week.
The students were as engaged as always in class time, even when it took more than our two translators to communicate a difficult word or phrase. They asked good questions and shared deep insights. One of the topics was intercessory repentance, the biblical concept where one person prays on behalf of his nation, repenting for the sins of his ancestors, as Nehemiah did in Nehemiah 1:6.
The three people groups represented in the classroom that day had all received grievous wounds at the hands of the ethnic majority in their country as well as neighboring minority groups. Generations of pain and hatred had been creating walls of hostility between them. Though the students loved and respected one another as individuals, the idea of forgiveness on behalf of nations was a new concept.
Intercessory repentance became very personal very quickly, as one by one the students fell to their knees at the front of the classroom.
At first I watched from the side of the room, amazed at something I barely understood. As an American raised at the end of the 20th century, I have never had reason to harbor bitterness toward other nations or people groups. No one has ever hurt my family. I have never experienced ethnic hatred. But something drew me into the group, and I found myself on my knees beside my new friends, doling out handfuls of tissues as they cried. As they laid face down on the ground, crying out in repentance on behalf of their nations, something amazing happened. Centuries old grudges crumbled down. With every hug a person from one ethnic group gave to someone from another ethnic group, thick walls of hatred and animosity crashed to the ground.
Suddenly, I understood Revelation 22:2. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
God is in the business of healing individuals, but He is also in the business of healing nations. Even people groups that do not yet have the full Bible in their language are experiencing the healing for their nations that God promises in Scripture.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.