Few things are more inspiring to the Christian than hearing how the gospel is advancing in foreign lands. Few things are more exciting than hearing how God is making himself known to the earth’s farthest reaches. For many years now Tim Keesee, founder of Frontline Missions International, has been going to places few of us will venture in order to see how the Lord is working there and in order to promote and support such work. He is dedicated to supporting gospel advance in the world’s most difficult places. Six times he has recorded DVDs titled Dispatches from the Front. And now, for the first time, he has written a book. It, too, is titled Dispatches from the Front.
Wherever Keesee goes, he writes. As he travels from place to place and as he makes contact with Christians and non-Christians alike, he records his thoughts and experiences. He does so in a unique and uniquely poetic style. He is a gifted writer but also a gifted observer of people, settings, landscapes, and customs. He combines these gifts in wonderful dispatches that allow us to travel with him. In this book he visits the former Soviet republics in the aftermath of Communism, the Balkans in their time of never-ceasing conflict, and China under the influence of a God-hating regime. He goes to Southeast Asia where children are treated as currency, to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, to the Horn of Africa and Egypt and finally to the dangerous, war-torn nations of Afghanistan and Iraq, where at this time there is barely even a gospel glimmer.
As he goes, he finds Christians. He spends time with them, he listens to them, he teaches them and they teach him. Wherever he goes he looks for evidence of the gospel’s power at work. He is a man who gets the gospel—he understands in it and believes in its power and will accept no cheap substitutes. And, of course, there are endless succession of these fraudulent imitations. He says,
I have seen empires come and go, but never have I seen anything so radical and pervasive as the gospel of the kingdom. The kingdom of Christ is diverse yet unified, boundless yet bound; for our lives are forever bound up in his life—and thus bound up with all other believers. We are like family, his body. The more I grasped the gospel, the more I loved Christ—and the more I loved him, the more I loved his people. I found a certain likeness in them.
One aspect that stands out I as reflect on Dispatches from the Front is the importance of humanitarian work that is coupled with gospel work. Of course we want the hungry to be fed and the homeless to find shelter. We do not advocate gospel completely divorced from physical provision. Yet the deepest and best hope comes when people hear the gospel and are transformed by it. This is not only because the gospel provides for them eternally, but also because the gospel motivates change here and now. Where animism is dominant, the people tend to subsist in misery. When Islam advances it brings with it an abhorrent form of captivity (as Keesee illustrates in several of the book’s chapters). But where the gospel goes, so too does an ethic that promotes love for others coupled to love for Christ. It’s an all-powerful combination that stands in stark contrast to the hopelessness around it.
This book reminds me that my experience of Christianity is not typical. It may be typical for a twenty-first century Western Christian, but it is not typical when we broaden the scope to encompass the whole church spread across the whole earth. For every bit of ease I experience, one of my brothers or sisters is facing peril. For every gift I take for granted, one of my brothers or sisters is thanking God for another day’s provision. For every Sunday I worship safely without the slightest fear of consequence, one of my brothers or sisters is risking their very life to gather with the saints. Keesee reminds me of all this in these brief dispatches.
I admire Keesee for this ministry and for his willingness to venture where the rest of us cannot or will not go. I admire his desire to help the church in dangerous places and to tell us of the gospel’s triumph over every manner of opposition. I enjoyed every page of this book and am convinced you will too.