“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.