Why I Need Africa
Pens, taxi fare, money for building a house, different MP3 players, more MP3 players, paper Bibles.
I show up and people ask.
I give and people ask for more.
I ask who needs a pen and the guy with a pen in his hand raises his hand.
I give to one guy and another asks for the same thing.
I give one to a guy and he asks for a second or more.
And these are the pastors.
Before I get to why I need Africa, let me say thanks to all who prayed for the MP3 Bible Player training on Wednesday. I think the training went well. The 27 pastors seemed to catch the vision of groups of people listening to the Bible. Communication (English to Swahili) which had been difficult earlier in the week seemed to be very good. We asked the pastors to provide quarterly reports and suggestions for future improvements. A local pastor will summarize the details and provide ongoing support.
The people need the Word of God. We are attempting to “brand” these groups so that they will be more memorable and spread faster and better. I told the pastors that we wanted the Word of God to spread throughout the land and “move” people like a strong wind moves trees.
Now for the rest of the story.
One guy that I have known for three years works for an NGO and is an evangelist. I will call him Fred. He and I met again before the MP3 Player Training. He always wants to meet me to ask for money to help him finish building a new house. He doesn’t live extravagantly but has a good job so I have not been inclined to help him. After I told him that I did not think God was leading me to give money for his house, he asked for cab fare to get to work. I started to say no before I have him the cab fare (all of $0.50). I have come to resent the continued requests for money.
Fred wanted me to meet with him to distribute MP3 players to people who could not come to the training. Even though the day was packed from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, I agreed to meet him at 6:45 AM.
Then he stood me up. So today, I was just angry.
I called him and he had someone else tell me to meet him at a different place. The language barrier is a problem. Since I was up already, I agreed, lugging a suitcase and a large backpack.
I finally found Fred and a group of 10 teenagers on the steps of a building of a college campus.
Fred was preaching to this group of street kids – all homeless, some high and some sober. There were only 10; usually there were 30. The others were digging a grave for a street kid who had died the day before. He was hit by a motorcycle and left to die. No hospital will treat someone without money. In both Zambia and Congo, I have learned that death is never far away.
Fred preached to these hungry kids about the power of Jesus Christ. He told them that only Jesus could meet their needs. He rebuked them for stealing from each other and encouraged them to share instead. He told them a story about how God showed his wife and him that they should be generous to a widow. At that time, Fred and his wife had no money so they decided to sell some of their possessions. (I have been to his house; they don’t have much.) With the proceeds from the sale, they gave the money to the widow. They returned home overflowing with joy.
That is just the beginning.
Fred started assembling this group of teenagers about 10 weeks ago. He meets with them virtually every day during the week before work – at 6:30 AM. He is doing the work of an evangelist.
So, what about my resentment and anger?
Funny, one of the thoughts that I had this morning when I woke up is that maybe the Africans are just practicing a different form of the asking, seeking and knocking that Jesus tells us to do in the gospels. Maybe God was preparing me for the events of the morning – for the revealing of my sin.
I confessed my sin and thanked God for the gift of Fred to this people. I thanked God for showing me a true example of generosity – of time and money. I also decided God might be leading me to give Fred some money for his house.
So I need Africa to show me my sin. I need Africa to see that people and life are complicated, especially in Africa. I need Africa to show me a different way of looking at things. I need Africa to see true generosity. I need Africa to see the power of God working in the lives of people.
Africa also needs Paul and me, but we will save that topic for another day.