Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Something terrible has happened that will be used for God's good purposes

November 24, 2009.
Yesterday morning one of the most faithful young men of our church was killed. Evans, brother to Archie, best friend to Alfred. Evans was 23 years old and his days were numbered until this one. We were expecting many more, but God knew from the day Evans was born that this would be his last day.

Alfred and Evans were driving to work as they usually do at around 7:00am in their truck for Darad Hardware. A minor accident occurred and their side mirror was broken. When an accident occurs here in Kenya, you pull over and discuss with the other person what happened, make negotiations, and then go to the police station. They decided to all drive to the police station. Evans rode with the other car, Alfred followed in the truck. The other car passed the police station and continued on, Alfred followed. They made it 10 minutes outside of Ukunda, Alfred overtook the other truck and blocked their path. As words were being exchanged between Alfred and the driver, Alfred heard THUMP, and Evans was lying on the ground. He was hit by some blunt object wielded by someone in the truck. Alfred picked his best friend off of the pavement and put him in the truck racing back to Ukunda, to the nearest hospital. When Alfred and Evans arrived at Palm Beach Hospital, only Alfred remained. Evans was pronounced dead on arrival. And the names which were always affixed together, "Alfred and Evans", are now separated.

Senseless greedy wickedness!

As family, friends, and church members grieved in the hospital, Alfred was giving a statement to the police and the police were tracking down the other vehicle. The car was found, then the driver, but not the man who hit Evans. The driver was locked up in the police station. And so was Alfred until all could be sorted out.

Alfred, Alfred, oh poor Alfred! His best friend is dead. He should be here with us finding some spiritual comfort in the presence of the redeemed! Not sharing a cell with people responsible for killing his best friend!

Corrupted wretchedness that takes righteous life!!

For what! FOR WHAT! A side mirror? 5,000 shillings ($65)? Is that how much life is worth now?

Alfred was finally released last night at around 7:00pm.

Something terrible has happened that will be used for God's good purposes. How? How can this be good? It cannot be good. Wicked man cannot be saved from indwelling wickedness...unless, unless he gets a new heart, unless, unless he is born again. But that's impossible. True. But God is not. God is not. This is God's specialty. He is Creator. He can speak to nothing and even nothing will obey the sound of his voice in fear and shape itself into something. He is Redeemer. Even when His creation is marred and corrupted by sin, He can buy it back out of its wickedness and pronounce it clean, pure, and innocent once again. Born again. Redeemed. This is what He does.

Redeem this wicked act Lord Jesus, I pray.

I was thinking about just how sad this day was. I was praying for Alfred, Cecilia, Archie & Tabitha, Fred & Tabitha, and Evan's family I don't know. All I could say was, "Lord listen to my spirit and intercede on my behalf," and this verse: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Evans is with Christ, and it is so much gain to him, so much better there than here. We live on, and for us to live is Christ as we live in Him and with His message of hope and salvation to the world. And as we live in a world of suffering, we will suffer, some with a greater pain than others. But God has spoken through His apostle Paul who suffered greater than all of us and considered it all as 'this light momentary affliction [that] is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison' (2 Cor 4:17).

Please pray with us for the family and friends of this great young man who loved Christ while he was here and now loves Him in the deep presence of God, greater than we can comprehend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"smoke from a thousand villages"

(This is a long one but worth the read. Feel free to go to the bottom summary points)

When David Livingstone arrived at the missions station in S. Africa in the mid-1800s , there was one thought that drove him, compelled him, and stirred up a passion within his soul. He would look to the north. The land was unexplored, and thus unexposed to the truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came to redeem from sin all who would follow and believe in Him for salvation. In the morning sun, Livingstone would look to the vast plains of the north and see smoke rising, smoke from a thousand villages who had never heard.

Livingstone and many other missionaries contributed to the romantic understanding of Africa that I can only understand when I look out at the open plain. It is a feeling I only receive when in the villages. Quiet, beautiful, serene and simple. Sometimes I wonder if Africa as a continent would have been better off untouched by modern life. Sometimes I wonder if this world would have been better off untouched by modern life, the 'noise, hurry, and crowds' that our Adversary focuses on to keep us from a contemplative life.

There is something growing in my heart that both stirs an exciting passion in my soul and an uncomfortable fear in my flesh. It is a greater desire to be a witness for Jesus Christ among those who have not clearly heard, and more specifically among the Muslims of this area. I am finding that my desire to be a teacher of God's word in order to lead believers to maturity is not contradictory, but complementary to my desire to be a teacher of God's word in order to lead the lost to faith in Christ and maturity in that faith. That they are one in the same.

However, I still feel conflicted. Longing with a deep desire to lock myself up in the office and study God's Word, study Islam, study Swahili, drink deep of knowledge and its useful purposes. And yet also longing for a deeper understanding of the people and engaging them with my whole heart.

Question: In one day, is eight hours of study, worth one hour of wise words finding their origin in God and given in a timely manner? (seriously, what do you think?)

In all this flood of impractical thinking, I remember that I've only been here two months. God is leading. God is growing my heart. God is working. God is my shepherd, and I am his sheep. My only responsibility is to hear the voice of my shepherd, and to follow him. The shepherd is the one who feeds, loves, and leads his sheep to the green pastures, the still waters, and even through the valley that we might trust Him in all seasons.

On a practical note, October has brought:
- an opportunity to preach at church on the meaning and significance of the Lord's Supper
- James & Jacinta our national teammates had their firstborn son, Daniel.
an outside bathroom at the Serve Center which will be used a lot once we officially open up to the public. It is our desire to use this place as a resource and training center for the pastors in this coastal region.
- Several teaching opportunities for myself. Worship team Bible study on Spiritual Disciplines, weekly devotionals with the Team, a study with college students in Mombasa over Galatians for all of November, an informal class on Ecclesiology for the church leadership team at Word of Life.
- An increased Swahili vocabulary
- I've been able to get to know some of the other missionaries here and talk with them about learning from them more about evangelism in this area.
- Many small opportunities from sharing Christ on the beach to having lunch with the caretaker of my apartments and his brothers.

Looking back over the month I can see that a lot is taking place. I need to learn not to measure my worth upon how much I accomplish in a day (or in a year or ever for that matter). No one can accomplish much in one day, but in 365 of them a lot can happen. Whether or not it is worth something or just chaff driven away by the wind, is up to God who breathes life into our work and causes the growth. We learned in church last week that we are farmers. A farmer is to work very hard, but ultimately what he does is plant a seed, bury it under ground, and wait for this magical thing called 'growth' to happen. God is that magic. Praise God! Because none of us have any ultimate control over the hearts of men. Growth is an impossible task for men, but farming is not.

Pray that I'd be a faithful and hard working farmer, planting seeds of faith in believers and unbelievers alike with the Word of God and the Gospel of Grace & Peace, today and for the next 20,000 days if my life remains and Jesus tarries.

In Summary:
- I have a greater desire to share Christ with those who do not believe.
- And yet a greater desire to study, study, study
- Right now I'm doing a lot of studying and teaching Bible studies
- I'd like to create a balance by spending some time learning how to share Christ in the villages and building stronger relationships in the church.

- Increased learning and adjustment to life here in Kenya
- God's leading and direction in my heart
- An increase in our team unity

- To be a faithful, hard-working farmer
- To walk closely and personally with God and be daily amazed by God's love
- To be patient throughout this first year of ministry and to not put too much pressure on myself