Unpacking from Tanzania 2012
I have always wanted to go to Africa. My dad went to Kenya when I was a teenager and I remember him coming back and telling amazing stories about his time there. Our church was able to minister to many African refuges not long after that time, and so my heart was always intrigued about the Church in Africa. I loved watching them worship and pray. I have always had a passion for missions, but I had no idea how the Lord would grow that passion. This opportunity, accompanied by a chance to preach, peaked my interest as soon as Scott Whitson mentioned it in one of our meetings. The Lord made the way, and I followed in faith.
The journey was very much like what most of you have heard about traveling in Africa. Rough roads, long bus rides, and rarely a schedule to be seen much less kept. None of this bothered me or even presented a challenge. The Lord has blessed me with many experiences of traveling internationally and it has been extremely that any of those have been short or comfortable.
The lessons I learned and the things that stick with me the most are not what I had anticipated. I had expected to see dozens come to Christ. I had expected to be irrevocably moved by their worship and love of Christ. I had expected to be broken by their poverty. Don’t get me wrong, we saw salvation, I was moved by their worship and love, and I was broken by their poverty, but the lessons cut much deeper than that.
Firstly, I was blessed to connect with the other members of the team I traveled with. You might not count this as all that strange, but I’m no accustomed to making friends quickly or easily. Nor was I prepared for the depth of conversations that began almost immediately, most people aren’t game for deep theological discussions with someone they have barely met and usually gives off a rather intimidating first impression. I will never forget Josh Woolsey as long as I live. He was a Godsend, and it was through Him that the Lord opened my eyes to my role on the trip.
Secondly, I was blessed to be trusted with the privilege of presenting the Gospel. My heart had been longing and is still longing for such opportunities. This is the calling that is placed upon my life. I am to proclaim the Gospel. As much as my flesh despises the idea of standing in front of people, as much as I would prefer to be left alone, as much as I would never choose a profession where I am constantly in front of people, I know that He has chosen me for this. My heart is still burdened for the pastors and their wives who attended the seminar that we were able to hold. It was there that I met the Lord face to face. It was there that His voice spoke to me and through me most clearly. I scarcely remember what was said, but my soul remembers His embrace.
Thirdly, I was burdened for the people. In every nation that I have had the privilege to travel to in my life, I have always been struck by the people. It is no different at home, but the feelings resonate more emphatically in a new culture. As in all nations on this earth, there is darkness in Africa. There are heavy burdens borne by those who are not capable of carrying them. The weights come in different forms in Africa than they do here at home. Instead of greed, they carry want. Instead of gluttony, they carry hunger. Instead of freedom, they carry oppression. Many of the people, especially the children, looked to us as if we could lift their burden. You could see in their eyes that the believed that we could save them because we had been saved from what they suffered from by the fact that we were born where we were born. A cloud always hung heavy on my heart as I looked into their eyes. I was not the only one to sense the cloud. I watched as several tried to alleviate the weight on their hearts by giving and reaching out, as indeed we all did. The truth remained that we did not have the power they thought we possessed. Helplessness is a hard lesson.
The singular thread that wove its way into every aspect of the trip was just how sovereign our God is. I look back and wonder what the trip would have been like if He had not intervened the way that He did. How would the trip have gone if even one of the team members had not been so open and courteous? How would the trip have looked without the rain or mud that came upon us unexpectedly? How would we have been impacted if it were not for the cloud He placed on our hearts? I am thankful for His discipline and great love that He showed me on the trip. Those moments will not soon be forgotten.