In the middle of March, 2011, my wife and I went on a mission trip to Africa. How this came about deserves its own post, and will probably get it. A few weeks after we returned, though, the pastor who led the trip (Pastor Don – bless his heart) asked me to say a little something during church. He said I could talk a “couple minutes” and I understood what he meant. I wasn’t supposed to give a sermon. I’m not a pastor.
It never works out that way, though. I put together thoughts about the trip and they encompass a book. So, even pared down, they took more than a couple minutes to convey to friends in our church. Essentially, though, this is what I said, changed a bit for the blog.
And it is fitting that it would be the first post in the o-dark-thirty blog, since there were many, many o-dark-thirty times during the trip, and since.
I could talk about how God whispered to me to go on this trip, and how He overcame each of my objections, in astounding ways. But God won, and that’s not really a story that you don’t know.
I could talk about the flight over, but it’s a haze in my mind, with memories of Pastor Don and Darling talking to people about Jesus Christ, but that’s not news to anyone here either.
I could talk about meeting Pastor Muhoza Lewi, and if I accomplished nothing else except meeting this modern-day Moses, that would be enough. But there was too much. The stories of a man who sees things in this world that others do not would encompass a book. Besides it’s his story, not mine.
I could talk about the Genocide Memorial, a testimony to the evil in the hearts of men on the same scale as the Holocaust against the Jewish people. Or mention the final thing I heard in that memorial – a video of a young girl who saw her family brutally killed in front of her, saw men murder her two little sisters in a manner that cannot be described because it burns at my heart. Her plan to destroy these enemies was so fierce I shuddered, and I wouldn’t be able to do it. She forgave them through the power of Christ. But I can’t talk about that. I still try to wrap my head around the genocide and cannot do it.
I could talk about the eight extraordinary people who traveled with me.
I could talk about Pastor Don’s unwavering commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his untiring efforts to help people in a land where hope is scarce.
I could talk about Shelly and her bubble machine and how her consistent smile brought joy to all the children she met, and delighted each of us as well. Or how, with a servant’s heart she made sure Pastor Don never worried about receipts or the mundane and how she always checked on each of us to make sure we were doing okay.
I could talk about my lovely bride, who hugged everyone and lavished the love of Jesus Christ on everyone she met, in a physical way. No one was safe from her hugs, and no one wanted to be. Or how I saw her pray over a man who was embroiled in evil and I watched that darkness lift from him. That’s another great story, and you’d love it. I’m a lucky man.
I could talk about Candace, and her sharp eye for details, recording this different world around her in her notebook with powerful words. At one point she jumped up and danced with the singing women.
I could talk about Andrew and how he saved the day a number of times with his guitar and his honest desire to truly know these people, these brothers and sisters we were visiting. They liked the guitar, but they really went wild when he added a drum sound when he was playing.
I could talk about Amanda, whose sweet nature and loving care touched each of us on the team and each person we visited. Her smile alone communicated that she, and all of us, cared for them. Her quiet tears at some of the harder things we saw, like the sea of hungry widows and orphans, or the shadows of what happened in the Genocide Memorial echoed our hearts as well. She was a treasure to us all.
I could talk about Dee and how she ministered to the needs of the widows, bringing them the hope of Jesus in a land of darkness. How in a land where widows and orphans have few women champions, she stood tall and offered them a vision.
I could talk about Sherry and her love for all the people we visited, and how she got up and danced with Pastor Lewi’s father. Or how Sherry came down one morning and said to us “I feel like I’m an onion and God is peeling me away one layer at a time. If He keeps this up, pretty soon there won’t be anything left of me.” And after we stared at her for a second she lit up like a lamp. “Oh, that’s where I want to be, isn’t it?”
But these aren’t really my stories to talk about.
So I thought about my story. This was a trip to a foreign land, a trip on two levels, physical and spiritual.
I could tell you how I prayed unceasingly for God to tell me why he brought me to this Dark Continent. Or how I got to tell people “Imana irabakunda” or “Mungu anakupenda” which means God loves you in two different languages. How a man in a small village loaned me a Kenyan-Rwandan bible and I read John 3:16 to them in Kenyan-Rwandan. I didn’t know the words, but we all know God’s heart and the language didn’t matter.
I could tell you the story of how God sliced my heart open at the Genocide Memorial. How He tore at me as I looked over one-room mud huts with no electricity, no water, no bathroom and saw starving widows and orphans as far as my eye could see.
I could tell you how God woke me with a message and how He used that. Or that I got to preach, which was pretty cool. I could tell you of the attack of dark spirits against my soul and how Satan got the upper hand, but went a little too far. Or how the entire team prayed together with Don’s leadership and strongholds in our lives were torn down. I could tell you these stories, but I’m not entirely sure what to say about them. I’m still working on them in my mind.
I could tell you how I found a CLEAN SHIRT in my suitcase, put it on that last day and felt almost clean for the first time in two weeks. And then I spilled something down the front of it.
And then it occurred to me. There is a story that is unique, and I want to share it.
We were on the flight home, finally, and I’m sitting there next to Darling just grinning and humming. We stop in Entebbe and are delayed for a bit, and I keep grinning and humming. And they turn off the air conditioning and I keep grinning and humming. And there are other delays and we still have over thirty hours of travel ahead of us, and I’m still grinning and humming. And Darling turns to me and says “You sure seem happy.”
I replied. “They can delay us, they can stall us, they can shut off the air conditioner. I don’t care! We’re going home.”
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? That’s the attitude every single Christian needs to hold dear to our hearts. We need to keep smiling when this world pounds on us and delays us and makes us sweat. Because we’re on a journey, and our destination is home, with God Almighty. This is just the trip. We’re going home!
|But no more Fanta Citrus|