The Honor of Dishonor
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The Honor of Dishonor
The Honor of Dishonor
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Our work in Africa has required us to file many official documents for the purpose of registering the work legally in the countries we are serving. Each country has it’s own specific procedures in place for those wanting to pursue registration; we have gone through this process successfully in several countries on the continent of Africa (Burundi, DRC, Zambia, and Malawi) and have had to study each nation’s process before making application. In 2005 when we first filed for registration of the work in Malawi, we submitted our application at an office called the “Registrar of Societies.” From there, the file entered the system and we waited for its approval, which took less than 6 months. At the time of our filing, there was no congregation, no building, no outreach – all we had was faith to sustain us. Now, nearly 12 years later, we have 5 churches in Malawi alone not to mention the other community outreaches that are ongoing.
Today, as I ponder what God has done over the years in this country alone, I struggle to find words to describe what’s going on in my heart. What made God choose us? We are an extremely ordinary couple with nothing extraordinary that would “qualify” us for something like we have seen take place over the years.
It may be that being extremely ordinary we found our journey to the extraordinary.
1 Chronicles 14:2a TLB “David now realized why the Lord had made him king and why he had made his kingdom so great…”
David who was King of Israel at the time that this scripture is referring to, came from an ordinary family. He was, perhaps, the most ordinary in the family as he was a shepherd. His work was to care for the family’s livestock. When the time came for a new king to be chosen for the nation (see 1 Sam. 16:1-13) David was out in the fields watching over the flocks for his father (vs. 12). No one expected someone so painfully ordinary to be considered for the extraordinary job of leading the nation. Yet, it was David, the ordinary one, who was chosen over all his brothers.
In choosing David over anyone else, God demonstrated that what He sees as qualifications required to serve Him far outweigh anything found in this world’s definition of success: a job with a large salary and benefits, a large bank account, land, education, presitge, honor in society, to name a few. God saw something in David that none of this world’s experiences could provide: someone whose eyes were open to others.
1 Chronicles 14:2b TLB “…it was for a speacial reason – to give joy to God’s people!”
David’s interest throughout most of his reign as King of Israel was focused on leading God’s people well; his interests came behind those of the people he was ruling. Whenever he veered from this, he experienced chaos. Thankfully, he learned this lesson quickly and the nation grew strong and prospered under his rule.
The moment any of us think outside of the realm of ourselves, we will quickly find the extraordinary taking place in our lives. This doesn’t mean we will live lives without test and trial. On the contrary, I have often felt as if we have bounced from trial to trial with not much time to breathe between the opposition that comes for the souls of men and women. What I have seen in the trial is miracle after miracle – miracles of provision, protection, and peace.
Jesus Himself chose to be born to an ordinary earthly family and had an ordinary profession as a carpenter and rose to see the extraordinary happen. With no formal training, He served His generation faithfully and lowered Himself so that others might experience joy. The result of His sacrifice for others carries on to our generation and now the challenge to us is: can we live for that same special reason, the joy of others?
What am I doing here?
It’s a question all of us have, at one time or another, asked ourselves. As I wrote yesterday in my now-famous Bollywood entry (no, not really so famous, just famous in my mind), I’ve wondered over the years what am I doing here serving as a missionary? What is it that keeps me here serving and working?
I don’t come from a family of ministers nor do I have any natural talents that this world would think could help out on the foreign field. One might think that to qualify for this work endless degrees and pedigrees would be necessary. While those things aren’t wrong (I do have a couple of degrees) they aren’t what qualified me to serve in Africa. All I needed to do was say, “yes” the day that God called. Personally, I didn’t find answering the call difficult; I found explaining the call of church planting to others difficult.
So, on occasion like Saul of the Old Testament, I find myself running after donkeys (1 Sam. 10:2 – Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys, but he was meant to be king.). Little rabbit trails meant to appear important but actually distract me from my main purpose: to extend the Kingdom of God among those I serve. There have been times when I’ve taken detours looking for donkeys that appear more important than planting churches. This is not a glorious calling nor does it naturally garner a lot of support as planting churches doesn’t seem to be as necessary as establishing larger community outreaches. Isn’t it enough to pray over a lesson, over a student, over a patient? Aren’t there enough churches?
Church planting is our call and I’ve given up apologizing for it. While some are called to open hospitals and universities, our grace lies with the planting of local churches that have always been found among the poorest of the cities we find ourselves in. God’s given us a vision to see 1,000+ churches planted on the continent and perhaps even beyond. We believe that God’s arm in the earth is extended to the world through the local church. We love starting churches from scratch that grow by reaching out into surrounding communities with activities that address the felt needs of those around us. In Malawi, where we are at this time, those types of activities include community health teaching, football games for youth, adult literacy classes, to name a few. The needs faced here differ from those found abroad – but to touch people and gain their trust, we need to speak to areas where they feel a need and this is exactly what we work for.
Once we have established ourselves in communities, the rest falls into place naturally. Not only are churches born but from the churches come the “classic” outreaches we so long to see: schools, adult education, leadership academies, etc. The difference we see in working this way is the spiritual covering and growth that comes with the churches provide a solid foundation for all that comes afterwards. If the foundation is not solid, how can hope for churches and outreaches that will live beyond us?
What makes this kind of mission difficult is the time that it takes to see these things come to pass. We are now many years into planting churches (we moved to Africa in 1987 and planted our first church in 1992) and are just now beginning to see an acceleration in growth.
Yes, I’ve been guilty of chasing donkeys – things that I think would “enhance” or in some way speed up the process of what we’re doing. The problem was, however, in chasing those donkeys I got sidetracked and my progress was hindered.
Let the donkeys take care of themselves in whatever you’re doing. As Samuel said to Saul, “the donkeys you’re looking for have been found” (1 Sam. 10:2), meaning, those issues you’re pursuing will take care of themselves, they’re not meant for your time and attention.
Remember, you’re meant to be a king.
Have you ever wanted to be someone you’re not? Or be able to do something you’re not naturally talented to do?
I’ve tried my hand at many things: embroidery, cross stitching, making small rugs, pottery, many different crafty things but the very best (futile) attempt I ever made was at Bollywood Dancing. Yes, you read correctly – I tried my best to fit in with Bollywood. (For those who might not have heard of Bollywood dance, it is a form of dance from India.) The story goes like this:
I’m a lifetime fitness enthusiast; I have exercised everywhere I’ve lived and that has often presented me with some challenges but I’ve always been ready for a challenge. When we lived in Lilongwe, Malawi, I found a small group of ladies who welcomed me to exercise with them and it was wonderful! I truly enjoyed the classes and I was also offered the opportunity to share Christ with a group that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
It was with great hope then, when we moved to Blantyre, Malawi, that I looked for a similar group to join. With the advent of social media, I quickly found several groups but only one piqued my interest. It promised 30 minutes of cardio training and 30 minutes of strength training. While I’ve grown accustomed to working out alone, I do like finding others who have the same fitness interest as me. The class met on a Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 pm; I waited anxiously for the day of my first class to arrive.
Finding the venue wasn’t too difficult, even for me, the most directionally challenged in our family. There were many cars parked out in front of the house where the class was to take place. I entered a bit gingerly, unsure of where to go but was ushered in by a very kind lady who I later learned was the instructor. The garage of the home had been turned into an exercise studio of sorts and everyone scouted out and claimed a spot. I found an inconspicuous corner in the back of the room, spread my exercise mat out, and waited for the class to begin.
As with most classes, we began with a stretch which was nice; I was pleased that I managed all the stretches with everyone else. Once we had finished with stretching, the background music changed from a slow warmup pace to something much faster and a bit foreign to me; it sounded a bit eastern and it was fast. Suddenly the instructor said, “Alright everyone, it’s time to Bollywood dance!” The atmosphere changed and everyone began moving in ways that I had never even thought was in the realm of possibility for me. The instructor and other ladies in the class tried their best to show me, to encourage me with the steps but it was to no avail – any hopes I might have had up until this point to be a Bollywood dancer had been thoroughly dashed.
Thus ended my Bollywood career. No matter how hard I might have tried, I simply wasn’t able to follow the steps. I even tried to go back a second time – and it was worse than the first time! It was back to working out alone for me, but it can never be said of me that I didn’t try Bollywood dance.
The call of God, thankfully, doesn’t depend on our natural talent. If serving in Africa depended on our natural talents, I’m afraid the work here would be sorely lacking. What is there that we can offer to the people of this continent that can bring change to their lives? When we first landed in Zaire in 1987, we were overwhelmed by the need that surrounded us and the crushing poverty of the people. Where were we to start? What were we to do? How could we possibly help? We didn’t have any natural abilities that could bring any substantial change; what had we gotten ourselves into?
It wasn’t until I understood that God isn’t looking for talent, He’s looking for obedience. He then supplies whatever we lack to get His work done. The key here is understanding that the work He calls us to do is His work, it’s not our own.
1 Samuel 10:1-10 gives the account of the choosing of Israel’s first king: Saul. He didn’t come from a rich or popular family. In fact, when he was anointed king, he was on his way to find his father’s donkeys that had gone missing. Imagine, a king looking for donkeys! What Saul did, however, was follow instructions at that point and when the time was right, God changed him into what he needed to be for the task assigned to him:
1 Samuel 10:6 NKJ “Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”
The work of God clearly can’t be done if we qualify for clearly, none of us qualify! The needs of this world are devastating and without Jesus at the center of it all, it would be impossible. Without God’s power empowering us, we’re just out looking for donkeys!
Today, allow God to exchange your lack for His abundance, your weakness for His strength, and your nature for His. It won’t be like Bollywood dancing was for me, flipping and flopping all over the place. You’ll find yourself keeping pace and walking in step with His plans and seeing things done that only He could do.
“The call of God is an expression of God’s nature, not ours.” Oswald Chambers