Monday, February 28, 2011

Why am I so rich? The Africa Series

Social justice is sort of a "buzz concept" in the Christian world these days. Actually, it's something being addressed all over our culture – maybe even more so outside the Church. I probably haven't spent as much time engaged in the conversation as I should. But some of the ideas that go along with it have been invading my mind as I process my recent trip to the Central African Republic.

Spending time as a "have" among the "have-nots" forces a new way of thinking. (I’m speaking purely from a material perspective).

First of all, what is a "have" versus a "have-not"? I mean the stark difference between us is clear, so I’m confident that I, as an American (no matter what my income level), am a “have”. But what is it that I have that makes me a "have"? Do my African brothers and sisters KNOW that they are "have-nots"? Because although they have very little, they seem way less stressed than all the "haves".

My next question is why was I born as a "have" while my African brothers and sisters were born as "have-nots"? I didn't do anything special to deserve special treatment. And they didn’t do anything do deserve less.

Finally, I've been thinking about what my life should look like in light of these differences. Should I feel guilty? Should I sell everything I have and give all my stuff away to become a “have not”? After all, the “have-nots” seem to be a lot more content in life. Would my relationship with God and my worldview be better if I was more like a "have-not"?

As a matter of chat…

Why do we work so hard to live a life so full of “haves”? When will we have “enough”? What do we gain from having so much? How much of our stuff is necessary, and how much of it is needless fluff that distracts us from the things that really matter? How does the story of the rich young ruler apply to OUR lives (Mark 10)? How can you “live simply” so others can “simply live”?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's Spend MONEY: The Africa Series

I am just AMAZED at how stinking good of an investment we are invovled in, in Africa. For $4000 per year, we are providing education and a daily meal for 50 orphans. If you do the math, that's $80 A YEAR per student. That includes the teacher's salary and school supplies. And let me tell you, it's being done with EXCELLENCE! about stretching a dollar! Let's spend some money (for God's glory)!

As a matter of chat...

Where did you spend your last $50? Was it worth it? If there are Kingdom investment opportunities like this in the world, why are we so hasty to spend money on silly comforts? Are you generous towards the Lord's work? Do you deserve the money you have more than a poor African? Is money a god in your life? Where can you give just a little bit more? Do you believe that God blesses faithful giving?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Serving the Servants: The Africa Series

One of the best parts of a short-term missions trip is the opportunity to work with missionaries. I’m always so excited to spend time with people who are giving their lives, completely, to something that matters – in another cultural context. I find that it’s rare to find people who are willing to give their entire lives to things that matter to God, let alone those who would do it in Africa.

Missionaries must get lonely. Relationships are important to everyone, and the foundations of relationships in another culture get pretty tricky – different cultural norms, different expectations, different ways of communicating, etc.

I’d also imagine that “church” is difficult for missionaries. The things that I love so much about my church require speaking the same native language, and sharing some of the same expectations, culturally. Not that those things are necessary to do church, but I’d imagine missing some of those things if I lived in another country.

As a matter of chat…

Do you know any missionaries? How are you supporting them? Do they know that you appreciate their sacrifices for the gospel? How are you making sure they are successful in the call that God has place on their lives?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Name of What?: The Africa Series

One thing I LOVE about the Central African culture is the importance of greetings. Arriving at a village where they know you are coming is the most fun. All the orphans, anticipating our arrival, swarm the vehicles, each one wanting to shake our hands and say “Bala-o”! It was a little difficult for me as I wanted to grab each child and give them a big hug…but a handshake has to suffice if you’re going to greet each person.

Whenever you are a guest, there is always an “official” greeting. For instances, whenever we (the American guests) entered a classroom, the orphans stood up, crossed their arms and recited an official greeting. In church, we were placed in the “special people section” and officially greeted from the pulpit. And whenever groups are exchanging greetings, thank-you’s, etc., or whenever a person is beginning a formal talk (like a sermon or presentation) it ALWAYS begins with a greeting that goes something like…”we greet you in the name of Jesus Christ”. Most goodbyes also include “please greet your family and church in the name of Jesus Christ.”

That seems significant to me. I greet a lot of people in a day, but I don’t ever greet them “in the name of Jesus Christ”. In fact, I have a LOT of conversations in a day that don’t include a word about Him, yet I would call Him my GOD. My Savior. My Lord.

As a matter of chat…

Do people matter to you? Enough that you would intentionally greet them? ALL of them? Does Jesus Christ matter to you? Enough that you talk about Him often in conversations? Do you identify with him regularly? Is He your Lord? Or just your Savior?

Thank God-ism: The Africa Series

I don't know much Sango - only a few phrases, really. But you begin to pick up on words and phrases when you hear them over and over again. One such phrase for me: "Merci Nzapa" or "Thank you God".

It seemed as if EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION included this phrase many times. Instead of responding to someone else's thought by saying "uh-huh" or "yeah" or "interesting", Central African's often replied with "Merci Nzapa". God gets credit for EVERY. GOOD. THING.

These people are among the poorest of the poor, yet have a perspective of gratitude towards God, in all things. Death, is a normal part of life for them. Suffering, hunger, tragedy - all every day occurences for many of them. Yet, they are constantly focused on HOW GOOD GOD is.

One man shared with us that he had just received word that a child living in his home (an orphan he had taken in) was hit by a motorcycle that day. She had injured her leg and was going to a "hospital" to be looked at. His first response after stating the facts: "Merci Nzapa..." because it could have been a lot worse.

It's easy for us to be pessimists at times. We think that life is pretty tough. Yet here in America, life ain't so bad. I like to encourage people to be optimists. Yet, I'm learning that maybe "just optimism" isn't enough. What if we were simply "Thank God-ists" - always grateful for who He is and what He's doing.

As a matter of chat...

What, in this very moment, are you grateful to God for? On your worst day in the past year, was there still things to be thankful for? How can you make sure you have an attitude of gratitude? What is distracting you or blinding you from being as grateful as you should be?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Cost of Learning: The Africa Series

Part of our trip to Africa included a two night camping trip to visit our schools in Bossangoa. We set up camp on the edge of this town at a Bible Institute. While there, we were able to meet the African director of the Institute as well as many of the future pastors who are studying there.

The Director was excited to tell us that they have the largest class ever lined up for this Fall - 21 students. The problem is that they don't have housing for that many students. So, several of the future students have already moved to Bossangoa in order to BUILD HOUSES so that they can study at the Bible Institute. If that isn't a passion for studying the Bible, I don't know what is. In addition, many men who become Pastors in the CAR never make a cent. Churches are so poor that they often can't afford to give their leaders a salary.

As a matter of chat...

Do you value learning? Are you willing to sacrifice in order to learn? How much? How much do you pursue learning God's Word? How much do you crave it? Would you build a house by hand to learn it? Is the study of The Bible reserved only for people who have a special calling, or for all followers of Christ?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Greatest Gifts: the Africa Series

So I have just returned from a trip to the Central African Republic visiting orphans who our church sponsors. I will try to explain some of the partnership through some other blogs, but am going to try to keep the blogs short and readable...bite-size pieces.

At each school we visited, we distributed a can of sardines to each orphan as a gift. Shoot, you would have thought we were super heroes. They. Love. Sardines. Each child holds out two hands and bows there head when receiving any gift. A picture of humility. But then they absolutely beam with delight. Most of them will take the can home and share It with their families, perhaps in a soup.

None of it seems too appetizing to me, but if thats what communicates love and concern to these precious children, at a cost of perhaps 50 cents, count me in.

As a matter of chat...

What kinds of gifts are the most meaningful to give? To receive? How do you attach value to a gift? Are you a good gift RECEIVER? What kinds of gifts has God given you? How grateful are you? Have you received them humbly? Will you share them? Do they bring you great joy? Or leave you wishing for more?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Africa...less than a week away!

I’m SO excited to be heading back to Africa in less than a week! This will be my third trip to the Central African Republic.

Your mind races all over the place as you prepare for a trip like this. I find myself thinking about different things this time around, than the last two times – probably because I know what to expect in some ways.

One thing that’s impossible to NOT think about is the stark contrast between the living conditions of the Central Africans and Americans. C.A.R. is literally one of the poorest countries in the world, yet I have never met such joyful people. Many days they lack even the simplest things – like clean water, or food.

As a matter of chat…

Are you trying to buy happiness? Where do you find your joy? Can you imagine living on $700/YEAR? What are you doing to “live simply, so that others can simply live”? Is there excess in your life that is stealing your joy?

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