While visiting the tiny island of Antigua in the Caribbean Ocean, I saw a beautiful country with beautiful people.
Bright blue ocean surrounds dazzling white sandy beaches. Tall palm trees dot the land. An abundance of vivid green plants and vibrant flowers cover the rolling hills. Lively, colorful houses line the sides of the roads. Unlike the muted greens and tans of most American houses, these are bright pinks, yellows, teals, reds and sometimes combinations of several colors.
And the Antiguan people smile and wave even at passing strangers driving by. It felt like a paradise on earth.
But driving down the bumpy dirt roads leading away from the airport, I realized that the closer I looked, the more things aren’t quite as they first appeared. The houses I once admired had broken or cracked windows. They were missing parts of their roofs. The brightly colored paint was cracking and peeling off the sides of the houses.
As my first impression of the beautiful houses faded, I realized more and more how poor many of the Antiguans really are. Cars were abandoned on the sides of most roads—stripped of anything that could be sold—and left to rust. Houses were tiny, most often one- or two-room buildings barely the size of two dorm rooms put together.
During my two-week mission trip in Antigua this past summer, I spent several afternoons helping “Miss Nancy,” a missionary woman who had ministered to the same neighborhood community for years. She frequently held Bible clubs in her home. One little Antiguan boy, probably about 10 years old, came to a Bible club one day. He looked around in awe at Miss Nancy’s humble abode—a home consisting of a tiny living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. A house that, to most Americans, would be considered a small apartment.
“When I grow up,” the boy said, “I want a house as big as Miss Nancy’s!”
It struck me how little these beautiful people have in their beautiful—yet so poverty-stricken—nation.
But the poverty of Antigua is not the biggest problem they’re facing; many Antiguans do not know Jesus and the gift of eternal life He gives us.
Just as their houses have the appearance of being perfect, many Antiguans appear to have good, Christian lives.
Until you move closer. Public schools have morning gatherings, not unlike chapels. Some even have the students recite a prayer. They welcome missionaries into their classes and praise the benefits of good morals.
Yet, despite reciting prayers and encouraging morality, many do not truly know God. Instead, they turn around and participate in all the activities the Bible prohibits.
I realized that, despite hearing the Gospel message, many Antiguans believe that living a relatively moral life will make everything turn out well for them in the end.
But God says this isn’t enough. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that even some who do good works in His name will not be allowed to enter the kingdom of God. Why? Because despite proclaiming Jesus, they did not believe in Him and repent of their sins.
While being a good, moral person is obviously not a bad thing, it’s missing the most important part of the Christian walk—believing in Jesus as your Savior who died for your sins. So while from the outside the Antiguan people appear to have it all together, many are missing the most important part of their lives: a walk with Jesus.
It made me realize the importance of missions work even more. These people, and many others around the world—even right here in America—need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And as Christians, we are the ones to share that good news.