Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you….

It’s almost 1 am and I can’t sleep.

I’m excited – because tomorrow I’m heading back to Africa.

I can’t wait to see faces of friends I haven’t seen in far too long.  Friends whose lives have become linked together because of a heart for God and for children.  Friends from a country, though seemingly insignificant, is beautiful – showing that to God, there is no insignificance.  Friends from around the country who pick up after years with no real contact – united by the love we have for each other and the people of Swaziland.  I love getting to share the country I love with people I love and to introduce my American friends to my African friends.

But that’s not why I’m excited and can’t sleep.

I’m excited because God has never failed to teach me more about himself and myself in Africa.

My friend Mathokza once told me, “God doesn’t call you to Africa to change Africa, He calls you to Africa to change you in Africa.”  And it’s true.

I’ve learned so much about God’s heart for all of his children and our responsibility.  That we have brothers and sisters all over the world that we are to treat as just that – our brothers and sisters.  And I’ve learned more about just how to follow Christ from my time in Swaziland.

In Africa, I learned how to be a dad.  I learned from an amazing family from San Diego (and other awesome families on the trip) what it means to disciple your children.  Not just to teach them what Jesus said, but to show them.  And even more, to bring them alongside as you follow Jesus.  I saw the type of young men and women this produces.  I will always love that family for that.

In Africa, I’ve learned that it’s not us and them.  That there is no “them.”  It’s all “us.”  We are all loved by God and all fall short.  We struggle with our problems of pride and hypocrisy in uniquely American and African ways – but it’s the same struggle.  We love to ask how a church is surrounded by so much hurt and need, yet does nothing while that church could ask the same of us.  So we love and support each other.  I learned humility and a pastor friend of mine prayed for us for God to encourage us.  “We” aren’t the saviors – “they” aren’t the ones needing saving.  There’s only one savior, and we stand as brothers in need of Him.

In Africa, I learned to pray – with urgency and expectancy.  And I’ve seen God respond.  I’ve seen him move governments to allow children to gather, I’ve seen him stretch food to feed more than we thought possible.  I’ve learned dependence on him because there was no other thing to depend on – and I’ve seen him be faithful.  Without this lesson, I would not be on the church planting adventure we starting today.

So I can’t wait.  To see friends. To see flourishing gardens where two years ago we first dug some small trenches (and subsequently had to re-dig them, because we had done it incorrectly).  To see new people fall in love with Swaziland.  To see the blessing the Project Canaan has become.

But most of all, to see what God has in store.

 

 

 

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Home by the Long Road

For so long I didn’t understand the purpose of life.  Not in a “what is the meaning of life” sense, but much of what I heard about the purpose of life seemed to center not around life, but life after death.  The sense I got from going to church was that life mattered only in as much as one went to heaven after you died.  That the whole reason for life was to come to faith in Jesus so you could go to heaven and then you just waited until it was time to go (or if you were a Super Christian – try to get other people to go with you).  I even heard one pastor say that life was like a camping trip – sure it’s kind of neat for a little while, but then you just want to go home.  This didn’t sit well with me (as someone who loves camping or as someone who was living).  To me, life itself mattered.It had to. I just didn’t always know why.

It seemed as if most Christian’s understanding of the life was to be reconciled to God so you could go to heaven.  But if that were true then life had no meaning before the fall.  Was there intrinsic value in life? What if there had never been a need for reconciliation – what was the purpose of life?  Then one day, I heard someone talking about the original purpose of life.  Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put man in the garden to work it and keep it (really to cultivate it) – this is commonly called the cultural mandate.  People were created in God’s image – in the image of a creator – and placed in the world to cultivate it;  to demonstrate the nature of God by working and cultivating beauty in the world. 

If this is true, then reconciliation is not simply restoring us to a right relationship with God.  It’s also about restoring us to our original purpose.  And in this, we see the purpose of our lives – to demonstrate, work for, and cultivate the beauty of the kingdom of God – to display God’s nature through creative acts – whether that is cultivating beauty through the arts, restoring the dignity of lives around us by helping others, or caring for and protecting the world that God has created. 

While being reconciled to God is essential to life, our purpose goes beyond our personal relationship with God to cultivating a world that reflects God – just as we were meant to reflect Him. 

There’s a section of Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring where Sam is given the chance to glance into the Mirror of Galadriel – a magical mirror that can show the viewer what is happening, or will happen, or might happen.  Sam looks in and sees his home in danger and longs to be home.  But going home at this point would mean leaving his master and friend, Frodo, and not carrying out his mission.  Although his desire for his home is great, he decides to follow his master and finish the work he set out to do.  He would reach home again, but he was resolute to “go home by the long road, or not at all.” 

While what awaits us when life is done is amazing, there is much to do that we were created for.

 

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