home

home

How would you describe your dream home? Maybe like you, I find myself dwelling on this question often, especially now that I am house hunting in Africa. I think about sitting in air conditioning, having a green garden with shade trees, actually staying in a place longer than 4-years, and a sizable list of other things. Until then my thinking is preoccupied with fixing our home, making it more comfortable and more like home. All these thoughts are normal and not bad in and of themselves, but they often become an end. I find myself getting stuck making earth my home, when as a Christian I’ve been secured another home beyond.

there is more beyond this world (2 Cor. 5:1)

There is more beyond, right? That is a heavenly reality. The Apostle Paul writes, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

And he continues, “For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 1). Paul’s metaphor of the body being like a tent is fitting. First, Paul made tents. It was his side job. He knew tents well. He had good job security, since tents tore or wore out. Tents are both vulnerable and temporary dwelling places and therefore a fitting metaphor for the body. Second, “tent” is a biblical metaphor. When Paul switches metaphors from “tent” to “a building from God” he has in mind the tabernacle tent that was superseded by the temple building. Temporary became permanent, tent became Temple, thus earthly body will become resurrection body. We ought to pinch ourselves with exuberant joy for what awaits our bodies!

Paul talks a lot about a future body, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20, 21) And  “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)

Why does Paul talk so much about the future body? Why does he have death on the mind? Is he morbid? Is he as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. says, “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good”?

Ironically, the problem is precisely the opposite. The issue is not that Christians think too much about heaven, but rather that we think too little about it. The apostle Paul said,  “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2). Some translations use the word “affections,” instead of “minds,” which gives it the feel of saying: “get fixated on heaven, not on earth!”

Paul thinks about death because he is aging. He isn’t getting any younger. Also, he bears the scars, wounds and bruises of years of persecution. Life has been difficult for this Jesus follower. Paul, like most bold Jesus followers, knows there is more beyond this world.

a longing for home always dwells within you (5:2-5)

Have you ever really longed for something? Like Christmas to come or your next vacation or to see a friend or loved one? What does it mean to long for something? To long is to desire something so deeply often there aren’t words for it. How does Paul express his longing? He uses the word “groan” (vs.2-4; cf. Rom. 8:23). Paul’s groans are echoed by creation (Rom. 8:19-22), Christians (8:23), and the Holy Spirit (8:26). All are groaning over the present worlds nakedness, longing for the day when our groans will transformed into praises and our nakedness will be robed in the righteousness of Christ, just as God clothed Adam and Eve’s nakedness covering their shame (Gen. 3:21).

From the beginning, God intended humans to have immortal bodies and live in constant fellowship with Him. Since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden we’ve been longing for home. We are most at home with God. While we wait for home we have been given a guarantee, the Holy Spirit, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (v. 5; cf. Eph.1:13-14) Our guarantee is that the Holy Spirit sets up residence in us as His temple. That’s a pretty good guarantee as we wait for our eternal dwelling place—God dwells within us.

Do you groan in this body, longing for heaven? If so, you’re not alone. C. S. Lewis said,

“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else… It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.”

take courage even when you haven’t seen home yet (5:6-8)

Paul’s faith was not weakened by his present pain and persecution, rather it made his faith stronger. Therefore he encouraged the Corinthians,  “we are always of good courage” (v. 6a; cf. 4:18), or, more precisely, “we are courageous.” Paul faced his present reality with cheerful optimism. “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (vs. 6b-7). There is a day coming when we will not need faith anymore because we will see God face-to-face.

Paul has that in mind when he says,  “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8). I remember, when I was a child, I would struggle the last few weeks of school before summer break because I knew I would soon go to my grandparents house on Alma Lake. I would drift away to that home and dream of it’s oaky smell, lakeside views through the birch trees, and familial comforts. Now think of what it must be like to be at home with the Lord. Paul has tasted a little bit of heaven and he hungers it more and more. Home is where God is and it is home sweet home.

home, here or there, the goal is the same (5:9-10)

Notice, the goal of “home” is not to escape this world or settle for a homecoming alone. The goal is to please God whether near or far from home. God is the goal. He is the main thing. This hope of imminent face-to-face communion with Christ naturally evokes an ongoing resolve to please Him. “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (v. 9). And if that is not enough to effect your resolve, there is one other eschatological component, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (v.10)

Like I said, we are house hunting in Africa. There is no Century 21 or Remax. Options are limited. I often compare life here to camping. So house hunting is simply trying to find the smoothest plot of land. We have no running water other than a boy who runs to get the water from a well. We have no consistent electricity other than what we brought with us. We sleep under mosquito nets. We cook over a gas stove. Not only that, many people do not respond to the gospel, we’ve even had people call us names and throw rocks at our house. With all that said, I like living in Africa because it makes me desire home.

C. S. Lewis, said in his book Mere Christianity,

“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

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the best investment advice I ever received

Waters cover the eart

“What set you on this course?” This was a question an aunt of mine recently asked. Since she was curious, others might be too. Therefore, I thought I’d share some of what I said to her along with insights from a little known prophet named Habakkuk.

It is an encouragement to get emails from those interested in following our new course direction (or calling). I know there are a few who think we are a little nuts to take our munchkins to a place like Africa, but coming from a family that has traveled as much as ours it shouldn’t be a surprise that the next generations have caught the travel bug too. I have to admit, the slideshows my grandparents would show with unabridged commentary from their trips to Africa, and visits from the Park family, gave me a contagious desire to go to Africa.

So what set us on the course? If you were to ask me 10-15 years ago, I would have never thought this is where I would end up. I wanted to be an artist like my dad, but when I heard you don’t make much money in that type of work I then wanted to be a writer or journalist. That was until, in high school, my church harnessed my gifting. My youth pastor would say, “You can’t take a U-Haul with you to your grave.” He encouraged me to continue my future in college studying Scripture and shepherding (it’s was there I also met Sarah). And immediately after college I took my first voyage to Africa on 9-month apprenticeship to South Africa. It was my first trip to the continent and it wouldn’t be my last.

When I returned to the US, I was called as the assistant pastor of a church in Indiana. For 8-years, the church cultivated my passion for Africa and the local church. It takes a selfless church to consider losing a pastor to the field when calling him.

About 6-years ago, I got an email out of the blue from a former prof at college who went on to be a pastor in inner-city Philly. He hired Sarah to be their children’s ministry director. You might remember, she grew up in the Congo until she was a teen. Africa was in her blood (quite literally). The prof asked, “You remember Sarah? Well, you like Africa and she does too. You love Jesus, and she does too.” Then he gave me her digits and the rest is history. That same prof married us in 2009. Thereafter the itch to go back to Africa was one we wanted to scratch. Our first thought was to go to the Congo near the area Sarah lived and we did training for pastors and youth leaders. It was amazing work with people eager to learn. However, as we left we were moved to go to places more forgotten.

Little known Habakkuk records some very scorching words from God’s, “Behold, is it not from the Lord of hosts that peoples labor merely for fire.” (2:13a) In other words, “God says, all the things men work for (i.e. newer house, bigger car, longer boat, larger flat-screen, fatter paycheck) will one day burn or outdate.” It’s not that they are bad things to have or own, they just aren’t lasting investments.

Then God continues by saying, “nations weary themselves for nothing” (2:13b) We see this, right now, in the political situation in Egypt and Syria or in the economical situation of many places in Africa. The strength, safety, and history of nations can crumble in a moment. In Habakkuk’s day, it was Babylon that was making headline news. They were bringing terror upon God’s people, but God declared they would only be a blimp in history and would soon fade into oblivion.

That didn’t quite calm Habakkuk’s nerves at that moment, however, in the midst of some serious woe’s, God is answering Habakkuk’s question, “Will the sin that I see go unnoticed?” A good question. Especially, when you hear the news about the latest child abuser or murderer near home or the unjust rampage on the other side of the globe. To which each human has a God-given beacon that blares out, “Somebody do something about this!”

God will do something. It might not be immediate, but He will. He makes an “I will statement” in the next verse, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14) Do you want to invest in something that will return its yield and that will return on its investment? Trust in, and buy into, the promise that He will fill every nook, cranny, and crevasse of this earth with His glory. If He says it He will do it. History proves it. That is God’s best bit of investment advice.

Most people understand that money doesn’t fix everything and the newest or neediest thing doesn’t satisfy but for a fleeting moment. What people are searching for is a golden ticket, a system that works, a way to peace, or a thing that will fill the empty hole inside them that wonders, “Is what I am doing or living for mattering?” Most things fall short, but God promises that like water He will fills every possible hole with His glory. This can be a hard promise to believe when the glory that man can make for himself is so tangible. Man can build for kingdoms and castles and rule in them proudly. He can build portfolios and resumes that gleam with self-made glory. And God warns against this imitation glory,

“What profit is an idol
when its maker has shaped it,
a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
when he makes speechless idols!
Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
and there is no breath at all in it” (2:18-19)

As God closes on his answer to Habakkuk’s question, He declares that a divine role reversal of Creator vs. creation must take place in every humans heart, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (2:20) It’s as if God says to Habakkuk, “Shh. Rest. Lay your life here at My feet. I am in control. Trust Me. I will bring justice. I will restore what is broken. I will right what is wrong. I will judge the living and the dead. I will wipe every tear. I will fill this earth with my glory.”

In fact, God has given us a glimpse of His glory. He sent His beloved Son to walk this planet, who lived a sinless life, received the most unfair trial, suffered under the weight of the worlds sin and the wrath of God upon Himself in His death, murdered like a criminal, but three-days later, rose the grave, defeated death, and made your way to eternal glory possible.

You might wonder what Habakkuk has to do with our course direction. It has everything to do with it. It is the promise that God gives to Habakkuk that gives us reason to go to Africa with our munchkins. It is for fame and glory. Not our own. May He cover this dry land with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea.

how long…?

How-long-does-tramadol-last2

Some people back home ask, “How long do you plan on being in Africa?” I know many of those faces we will not see for years. I don’t know how to answer that question, but my usual response is to answer, “As long as it takes.” We desire to see a mighty movement of God. That could take a while.

On Sunday, Sarah and I were listening to a sermon on the book of Habakkuk during our family worship time. In Habakkuk 1:2, he asks “How long?” for a different reason. He sees all the violence and injustice around him and asks God, “Why aren’t you doing anything about it?” (my paraphrase, 1:2-4). It is easy to regard our circumstances and think that God is passive, however, God is more proactive than you can imagine. For in the next verse, God answers Habakkuk’s question, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (1:5)

Like Habakkuk, I may doubt God promises. I may question His character. I may not see immediate results from my work. I may throw in the towel too early. Yet God says, “Wait a minute. Check this out. Look and see. Be amazed. Be still and know that I am God over history and your circumstances.” He’s been working among the Z people long before we arrived. He will be at work among them long after we’re gone (whenever that may be). Right now, He is at work within me reminded me of His faithfulness, His truth, His presence, and His sovereignty. If God were to share with me all that He is doing at this moment, I would not understand or comprehend.

thumb licks [3.14.12]

Fight sin is tiring.

The gospel of art.

8 ways to protect your children from sexual abuse.

5 reasons God said “NO.”

Why daylight savings time is pointless.

Harold Camping admits sin and doomsday predictions.

Be careful what you say to your pastor.

Why imposters love church.

3 Little Pigs. If it were told today in today’s world.

Kony 2012. I hope this movement does not make this man famous, but that justice would be taken. I appreciate this letter from a fellow brother in Africa to a lady who has questions about Kony.

multiply: Chad

I want to encourage you to take 5-minutes and watch this short video. It is a short project that Pioneers issued to mobilize servants to consider North Africa. The couple in the video are new friends we have made during our vision trip early last year. They will only live a few hours from where Sarah and I will soon live. Their people group is a neighboring people group to the one we will go share the good news. It will give you a perspective of life in a forgotten land. Pray with us for a Mighty movement of God among these forgotten people.

pray for Sudan

This week elections are taking place in a civil war ransacked Sudan. Southern Sudan is seeking to succeed from northern Sudan. Here is what CNN has to say about what is going on right now:

Several million people will decide in the next week or so whether to give birth to the world’s newest nation.

They will cast ballots on whether to declare independence at polling stations sprinkled across the vast, flat plains of Southern Sudan, an East African landscape long riven by chaos.

War and famine have ravaged generations in the south for as long as anyone can remember. Fighting forced more people from their homes than in any other nation on earth. Hope remained elusive.

Yet the vote has given many southerners the rare sense of exhilaration that is borne of new beginnings.

From January 9 to January 15, the black Christians and animists in the autonomous region of Southern Sudan will vote on whether to declare independence from a northern government dominated by Arab Muslims. The two sides fought a war that killed 2 million people from 1983 to 2005, when a peace treaty set the stage for the upcoming vote.

Nearly 4 million have registered to cast ballots. Few doubt the outcome. . .[Read the rest.]

Here are 6 ways to pray for Sudan. African Inland Mission also shares more ways you can pray

Check out this great song for Sudan by Swoope “Actions Speak Louder”

spreading the fame

It is unbelievable to think that there are hundreds of people groups around this planet that do not know the name of Jesus or bowed their knee to His name. Unreached people are all around you. They might be in your family, at your work, next door to your home, or even in your church.

In our nation you do not have as many unreached as you do have unengaged. Unengaged are people who do not hear or see a gospel. Instead, you see people busy building their names and kingdoms. Personal fame is the name of their game. However, what you observe from history is that it takes one to two generations before your name disappears and becomes forgotten. This land has acres of rectangle lots where people are buried, but few know anything about those 6 feet below those tombstones. What will be remembered about you 100 years from now? Where will you be 100 years from now? That’s what matters. There is One whose fame will last the test of time. Do you know Him?

In Psalm 145, we hear a majestic masterpiece. It is a song that is composed of beautiful Hebrew acrostic hidden to our English eyes.  This psalm is what is called a doxology. A doxology is praise based on doctrine—worshiping God from in spirit and truth. People praise God based on what they know about Him. What you can know about Him is revealed to you in His Word through His Spirit.

This is David’s last psalm recorded in the Book of Psalms. It is his crescendo of praise—his swan song. It is like that of a powerful rock ballad that hammers an explosive ending that just when you think it is coming to an end there is encore multiplied by encore. Praise [Heb.Hallel] means to radiate and shine—boast and brag. This is a song needs to be integrated in our souls and ringing in our ears. No matter where you are at today—discourage, overwhelmed, confused, bored, ready to worship—this song is for you.

 

Prelude [1-2]: David begins his song with a high and low. In the high David says to God, “I extol You, my God and King.” To extol means to lift high. It is to make God’s name the highest, greatest, best, most known and most famous. In the low he says, “Bless Your name” To bless [Heb. barak] means to make low—to literally bow the knee. It is an expression of humility to God’s authority. This reverent kneeling is not just a one-time deal. David says, “I will bless You everyday… forever and ever” Now not everyday is the same. Some days are harder than others. Some days have challenges. He says, “I will bless God no matter the circumstances.” The idea of praising God is to lift Him higher and bow me lower. This is worship. How do we spread the fame of God’s name? Note these 5 stanzas of praise to God:

 

Stanza 1: Greatness of God [3-7]. God’s greatness is seen in His power and authority. His greatness cannot be contained. His greatness is limitless and awe-inspiring. Even your greatest thought about God is puny compared His reality. He cannot be fully realized or comprehended. He boggles our minds. His greatness is unsearchable and indescribable [v.3]. Trying to comprehend Him is like floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean. You can not know its depth, width, breadth or height. So it is with God.

The greatness of God is spread by “One generation shall declare your mighty acts to another.” [v.4] Do you share what God has done in and through you? There is a mandate for parents in these verses—that parents would declare God’s mighty acts to their children. Do you tell your children about the great things God has done? This fires me up about being a parent. Tell and retell God’s great works. Don’t be the last link in your family. Pass the spiritual torch to the next generation. What is the greatest inheritance you can give to your children?

There are many ways we can declare God’s greatness. You can begin by declaring it to yourself [v.5]. Meditate means to ponder, to converse aloud with yourself, to remind yourself, to stir up your memory, to preach to yourself. The idea of meditation is to hear your own thoughts make statements about God. Take a moment to think about His greatness. What does David meditate upon? The “glorious splendor of God’s majesty.” [vs.6-7] He weighs in on the worthiness of God’s greatness. Do you need peace and comfort for your soul, counsel through a tough marriage, rough workweek or nagging sin issue? Meditate upon God’s great power and work.

The more I know about God the more I amazed that I do not know very much about God. Getting my Masters Degree taught me that I could spend the rest of my life just scratching the surface of God’s greatness. As I learn about God it cannot keep silent. The greatness of God is too exciting to keep secret. David needed to talk about God. It was on the tip of his tongue Does your conversation lead to God? If you were to map out your talk do they funnel towards God? This is the basis of our fellowship in this church. Our unity and community is in our talk about the greatness of God.

 

Stanza 2: Grace and Mercy of God [8-9]. These verses are a classic expression of praise for God’s character.[1] God’s grace is His favor that He gives to those who do not deserve it. His mercy is withholding of His wrath from those who do deserve it. He is patient with those who arouse His anger with their sin. He is loyal with a long-lasting love. God is a good King. He does not rule with dread to those who are in His kingdom and escape His wrath by the blood of His Son. God’s grace is not cheap little gifts from the dollar store, but priceless gifts poured out from a warehouse stocked full to the ceilings. In response, all of His works and all His people will praise Him [v.10].

Stanza 3: Sovereignty of God [10-13]. God is enthroned in the heavens and His kingdom remains forever. He rules over all things. He has the authority to do as He pleases. He has the power to carry out all He promises to do. Does that bring comfort to your soul? God is not a maverick. He is not random. He doesn’t second-guess Himself. He does not make mistakes. He holds all things together.

The sovereignty of God is key to evangelism. Since, God is your Creator that makes Him your absolute authority. You are responsible to Him. He owns you. Stop your rebellion and return to Jesus Christ. You will stand before Him as your King. That is the essence of the gospel.

Stanza 4: Faithfulness of God [14-16]. God is generous. God is a provider. He comforts those in need [v.14]. He nourishes the needs to those He has a covenant relationship [vs.15-16]. Considering the faithfulness of God can be the greatest counsel to your needy, broken, and empty spirit. He will fill your hand and satisfy the hunger in your soul. As I think about the people of North Africa and reaching them with the gospel I am overwhelmed by their physical needs. However, the gospel will provide them more satisfaction than drilling a well for fresh water, protecting from radicals, rapists and terrorists, or reforming nations with decent dictators who will care for their own people. The gospel changes somebody from the inside out, forever.

Stanza 5: Righteousness of God [17-20]. God is working all things together for your good and His glory [cf. Romans 8:28-29]. There are many people around the world that consider their current circumstances: sisters and mothers raped, families displaced by genocide, immense poverty and suffering at the hands of tyrants, “Is there any justice?” Does it seem like Satan is winning the war? In the Lord, justice is at home in His righteousness. Everything the Lord does is right [v.17]. His righteousness looks for your sincerity [18], your reverence [19], and your love [20] even in the face of worldly danger. God’s righteousness will deal with injustice.

Coda [21]: The coda is the final movement of a musical piece. The coda of David’s psalm answers the question: How do we spread the fame of God’s name? By proclaiming His praise to every person [v.21; cf. Revelation 5:6-10]. How will they believe if no one tells them?

So this is why our hearts are set the unreached. Why not stay in North America? Good question. The answer from Psalm 145 is simple; Have a passion for God and compassion to make the name of Jesus famous to the forgotten and unengaged peoples of the world. 100 years from now we will not be remember, but God’s name will still remain. Will they know Him?


[1] Cf. Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.

Is Africa barbaric, forgotten or ignored?

Is Africa a continent out of control? Why are trucks loads of money, forces of relief aid, and sympathetic media attention not helping rather haunting the drifting dark land? In the past decade many regions of Africa have been blitzed by war and conflict, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Sierra Leone crisis and the war in Ethiopia and the various other civil wars.

I’ve come across a book entitle Stealth Conflicts; How the World’s Worst Violence Is Ignored which, provides a useful map representing conflict death tolls between 1990 and 2007 where the square area of continents/regions corresponds to their proportion of conflict death tolls:

88% of all conflict death tolls in this period were in Africa, followed by Asia (6%), Middle East (4%), Europe (1%) and the Americas (1%)Source: Virgil Hawkins, New World Maps, Stealth Conflicts, December 30, 2008

In addition to the conflict deaths, there have been over 9 million refugees and displaced people. If this scale of destruction and fighting was in Europe, then people would be calling it World War III with the entire world rushing to report, provide aid, mediate and otherwise try to diffuse the situation. However, there is silence and no sympathy on a grand scale to extend grace to these WARnout African people.

I received this story from some friends serving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week, “Word had trickled out that the entire village was burned, although the inhabitants were rousted by gunfire and allowed to flee their homes.  The attack was in retaliation for ‘allowing’ government and MONUC (UN) troops to headquarter in their hamlet in a recent operation to seek out and forcefully repatriate the Hutus. Despite official claims, no success.  In classic guerilla fashion, the Hutu warlords who control columbium and tantalum ore mining – cell phones and jet engine exhausts – (google “coltan” if you are interested) and their militias had simply retreated into the heavy jungle.  Someone didn’t learn the lessons taught by the Viet Nam conflict?!”

Virgil Hawkins states, “The death toll from conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is literally one thousand times greater than that in Israel-Palestine, yet it is the latter that is the object of far greater media coverage … [and where] the intricacies and nuances of the conflict, political situation and peace process are almost obsessively analyzed and presented.… [African] conflicts are frequently brushed off and dismissed as being chaotic, or worthy of some vague pity or humanitarian concern, but rarely of any in-depth political analysis. But even [when there is coverage of conflicts in] Africa, the death toll has little to do with the levels of coverage. Darfur made a rare appearance on the radar of Western concern in 2004 … at a time when the known death toll from conflict there was still 80 times smaller than that in the DRC. Similarly, political violence in early 2007 in Zimbabwe resulting in one death and a number of arrests and beatings of political leaders became the object of relatively high levels of attention and indignation in the Western media. At almost exactly the same time, political protest in Guinea was put down by government forces that fired indiscriminately into crowds of protesters resulting in a total of 130 deaths and numerous arrests. Also at the same time, street battles between government and opposition forces in the capital of the DRC resulted in between 400 and 600 deaths, and resulted in the exile of the opposition leader. Yet this violence in Guinea and the DRC was virtually ignored by the Western media.”

Q: Is Africa barbaric, forgotten or ignored?

A: All the above. It is time for the church to step up and step in.

pray for Leonard

pray for Leonard
and his family

While in the Congo I met a pastor, Leonard. He has been in Bukavu for 6 months waiting for work and a means to get back to his wife and children who where many kilometers away. He made a special visit to see Sarah and me. In the conversation, which Sarah translated, he asked if we could take his three sons. With big eyes his sons were sitting quiet, listening. Sarah, translated the message to me with the addition of, “Be careful how you nod.”

The Congo is a different kind of place. You see, Leonard thought he can not provide for his children and in desperation they will be better off with these Americans he barely knows. How would you respond? Our response was simple. No. We explained to him that it would be impossible to take his children. What Leonard’s children need to see their father’s struggle of faith and these difficult times will be fruitful to his family. I promise Leonard my prayers and ask that you would pray too.

Pray that his children would see their fathers faithfulness.
Pray for work and the provisions of God.
Pray that he would trust God to provide all of his needs.
Pray that God would be made famous through his example.

a spoiled baby

Victoria Crying

I am stunned by the number of NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations) based in the Congo. Many people around the world have compassion on this country. Yet I am concerned. Could all this compassion be causing long-term harm? Could they be creating a spoiled baby who cries for milk, nurture, clothing, and more, but cannot help itself? This is a country that relies so much about outside help. What the Congo really needs is to know how to grow up and live on their own. Or in other words stop acting like selfish babies.

I grew up having all that I wanted and more. I know the struggle of having to grow up and provide for myself. I suppose that is why I like the movie “Empire of the Sun” so much. It is the story about a wealthy British boy growing up in Japan during WWII. He has everything and more. It is obvious he is spoiled. The war strikes and he is separated from his family. He now has nothing. He is force to live on the streets, in containment camps, and is forced to grow up. He becomes a man. In the end he is reunited with his parents and has an appreciation for them unlike he had before.

Spoiled is all a matter of cultural definition. What it comes down to: being spoiled is selfish living. One who is spoiled says, “You do the work and I get the reward.” It is much the same in the USA as it is in the Congo. You can have a lot and be spoiled, and you can have little and be spoiled.

lost in translation


August 16 lost in translation. Sarah and I traveled to two churches this morning. At the first church we just observed and sang. Can I say it again? The singing here is amazing. At the second church I preached. The gentleman that translated for me was a rookie. I suppose we had something in common!? Overall the sermon was communicated without too many verbiage distractions. Interesting I was speaking on commitment. There is no word in the Swahili that can be translated “commitment.” The closest is “standing firm.”

Most people in the Congo can speak 4-5 languages: Swahili, French, tribal languages, and maybe English. I am such a monolingual American. I took 4 years of French in high school. I wish I could remember some of that!? Sarah speaks great Swahili, which is great. Some of Swahili the phrases I have picked up (it is all phonetic so that helps):

Jambo = hello

Habari = how are you?

Bwana Asifiwe = praise the Lord (what else do you need to know?)

Ndyo = yes

Hapana = no

Mungu = God

Muzungu = white guy (I hear this a lot walking in the streets)

kivukutu = hot

asanti = thank you

tokainje = get out of here (mostly for fun during games with the youth)

FYI-We just heard that Kenya Airlines was on strike this week, but praise the Lord they are back to work! We will be boarding a small bus at the Congo/Rwanda boarder Tuesday morning to head to the

August 17 free day. Sarah and I are now finished with all our projects. We headed out for a few meetings with pastors and friends. The rest of the day we saw sights and went to the market. I relaxed. Tomorrow we head to the boarder to catch a bus for a 5 hour ride through the winding Rwandan hillside. Wednesday morning we fly out of Rwanda to Kenya to Amsterdam to NYC to Buffalo where Sarah’s family will pick us up for her brother’s wedding over the weekend. Bon Voyage Congo!!

a congo camp

August 14-15 A Congo Camp. For two days we are holding a half-day retreat for youth. We have about 20 youth and 20 adult leaders that are attending. This gives the leaders attending our seminars a practical application to what they are learning. Each of the adult leaders has a responsibility: teaching, leading worship, prayer, administrating, cooking, serving, scheduling, leading activities and more. The leaders did an amazing job and took ownership of their responsibilities. On a side note they all love the game HUWA. It is all they want to play!!

We met with a group of the leaders from the seminar that now have a vision to start a camp that travels across the country to churches that could use a camp/retreat as a means to reaching out or growing their youth. It is great to see their passion for God and youth. We walked through the process of beginning such an organization (theological structure, government legalization, and more). My experiences with the ReFUEL Retreats, Shakamak Bible Camp and Checkpoint Bible Camp have proved to be valuable.

seminars

August 11-13 The seminars begin. And we are off… So we had about 49 people the first day. Many more than we expected. We had a wonderful discussion about the biblical basis of youth ministry and the ground level instructions on how to structure a camp/retreat for youth. It was so wonderful to see such faithful servants passionate about the youth of their country and desiring to learn more about the Truth. Their faith inspires me, their heart of prayer convicts their desire and me for God moves me.

On Wednesday we started our morning with some discouraging news. One of the leaders was given word on the way to the seminar that the soldiers down country killed his brother. He and a few others went to help him prepare shelter for his family coming in from out of town. We prayed for him at the seminar. This is painfully common in the Congo. It set a somber mood for our seminar this day. After each session in the workshop we allow time for questions. They have many good questions. I don’t always have the answers. So I am studying the Bible answer give them adequate answers.

Thursday was our final day of the seminar and we prepared for our retreat for tomorrow and Saturday. Sarah and I are confident that they are going to do a great job. Each of the leaders have a specific role and ownership of the retreat. My translator Rafael has been excellent!! Praise the Lord for all your prayers!

dust


August 10 Dust. There is dust everywhere here in Bukavu. Since it is dry season the the vehicles and people walking about stirs up clouds of red clay dust. Sarah and I walked through the city markets and streets of Bukavu. We are full of dust. People were selling anything from bait fish to sandals, avacados to palm nuts, leaks to cell phones.

We visited a hospital and visited with Dr. George. He walks with a limp and specializes in pediatics. For the Congo the hospital seemed large and organized because it used to be a private Catholic hospital. We also met Dr. Gila, a Messianic Jew, who works with Moriah Africa an organization that networks churches and hospitals with helpful resources. For lunch I tried some local sombe (rice, greens, palm oil and a side of sardines) and a bottle of Coke. It was satisfying and filling.

We set up a few meetings today with youth leaders from the area. Many of them are headed to our seminars this week. The meetings are times we can discuss the week in the seminars in advance and answer any questions they might have. We were expecting about 15-20 leaders, but it now looks like we will have over 40. This will prove to be logistically challenging, but God has show His faithful. At one meeting we met a pastor by the name of Leonard and his son. Just months ago his village just 3 hours away was burned to the ground, except for their church because it was made of brick. The soldiers told him to leave so he has moved to Bukavu to look for work. He has 6 children and a wife who is expecting. He asked if we would take in some of his children. How would you respond to this proposition. We prayed together that he would trust God to supply His needs for our God is faithful.

going to church

August 9 Going to Church. This morning we woke up to the sounds of Bukavu: roosters crowing, car horns honking, men whistling, children playing, UN soldiers marching, and motor scooters racing. I took a bath with a bucket of cold water. It was surprisingly refreshing after such long travels. We are staying with Renee, a single missionary who ministers with the deaf and runs a coffee shop next door that employes locals. We had dinner there last night and it was fabulous.

We attended Berean Church (CEEBCO) today. The singing was incredible and unforgettable. Sarah and I presented our ministry (leadership seminar and camp for youth) before the church. They sang a song to welcome us. After the service the elders of the church prayed over us and we had an opportunity to pray over them.

We had lunch with the Lindquist’s our sponsoring family. They had hamburgers covered with Goma cheese and homemade icecream. In the afternoon we headed to a missionary fellowship with people from Food for the Hungry International, Crossworld Press, braodcasting and aggriculture (headed by a Purdue grad), and others. It was an encouraging time of worship, fellowship and devotion from Daniel 7.

getting to the Congo


August 6-8 Getting to the Congo is no easy feat. Our journey the past few days has taken us through Chicago, Detroit, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Nairobi (Kenya), and Kigali (Rwanda). Once we landed in Kigali we ventured a 6 hour bus trip through the curly roads of the agriculturally patterned hills and jungles of southern Rwanda. The bus dropped us off near the boarder of the Congo where we checked out of Rwanda, crossed a small bridge and entered Bukavu Congo. The immigration building was a small room will a curtain and a man sitting behind a rickety table with a small lined notebook. Once he entered our info into the notebook by hand we were free to enter the country. Much different than the excruciating checks and rechecks of the US Immigration Service.

I wish I could give you a glimpse of the sights, sounds, and smells we have experienced the past few days. It is a lot like camping here in the Congo: electricity is limited, there is little to no water pressure, and a mosquito net to keep the bugs out. There are no tents, rather layers of housing that overlook a massive lake. Bukavu is a city of 600,000 people comprised of locals and war refugees, but that varies because people come and go often. The city has seen better days. 12 years of civil war have taken their toll. The city is alive, but needs the life of Christ.