I returned from my most recent missions’ trip to the continent of Africa at the beginning of April. On this twelve day trip, I was able to visit three different countries and preach numerous times. While this wasn’t my first trip to this great continent, it was one that profoundly impacted me. Allow me to share some things I observed, as well as some things God showed me.
One of the greatest things a church does is send missionaries. Through the years, Cleveland Baptist Church has been the sending church to a number of missionary families. It is never easy to say goodbye to wonderful people that have been greatly used to bless their home church. However, God doesn’t reach down and select marginal people. He selects engaged people who are already busy impacting their world through their church. It is those people that God burdens and sends to the mission field.
There is no way to do that without sending people out from the home base. As we look in the Book of Acts, we see the New Testament model. God selected Paul and Barnabas and told the church at Antioch to separate them, lay hands on them and pray over them, and then send them away to the work.
If we want the world to have the gospel, some have to go and some have to send. It was great to see firsthand what sending the Mickey family from Cleveland Baptist Church has meant to people in the countries of Kenya, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I was reminded of our missionaries’ dedication. It is admirable that they are willing to leave behind their home country, church family, and physical family because they love the Lord and believe He is worthy. They often put their lives in peril to fulfil the Lord’s mandate of taking the gospel to another people and culture.
Often, it isn’t just a husband and wife impacted by this decision, it is a family. Children are raised on a mission field, where they are the minority and in many ways very different. As these children grow up on the mission field and come of age, many times they head back to America to start their own lives. After spending years in a different culture, it can be difficult for them to make adjustments to American life and figure out where they fit. Missionary parents then face the difficulty of not being close to their children or grandchildren. It is a price that they pay with a spirit of joy and a willingness to do what God has asked of them.
I know that there are some missionaries not doing anything, but from my point of view, they are the exception and not the rule.
I learned that Christians in other places love the Lord and express their love through worship in ways I found refreshing. In all of the churches we visited, the people were willing to fit into tight quarters and gladly sit on hard surfaces in order to meet with the Lord. Their buildings weren’t fancy; in fact, a few of them had floors that weren’t finished. One building didn’t have electricity. It was just a shell built for the church to meet for worship.
I was impressed with how the Christians in Africa who have so little, put such an emphasis on getting dressed up to go to church. No doubt they save and work in order to buy something nice. They make sure it is clean, pressed, and ready for Sunday worship. They weren’t trying to impress me or anyone else; they were coming to church to worship God, and He is worthy of this kind of preparation and dress. It was something to behold.
I marveled at the way one of the churches conducted their offering. They brought their offerings and gave them publicly, but with great humility. The offering container was placed at the front of the building. During the offering the people sang, and many began to leave their seats one by one and make their way to the front to deposit their offerings in the container. They weren’t waving their offering around for everyone to see. No, it was an act of worship. I was moved by their simplistic, sincere, and humble demeanor and the genuine heart of worship they demonstrated.
Their music was different—no piano or organ—just simple instruments of African heritage. The instruments weren’t overpowering; they were simply used to keep time. But oh how powerful the singing! Though I didn’t understand the words, I understood the spirit and the heart of worship behind the music and the singing.
During the preaching (which was done through an interpreter), I could sense the power of God in every service. People hung on every word, and there was a connection between me and my interpreter. While we spoke different languages, we were delivering the same message. When the invitation was given, it was humbling to see folks coming to bow on the dirt in their Sunday best in worship and obedience to the Lord. In one of the churches, the floor wasn’t just dirt, it was dirt and rock. It wasn’t easy for them to kneel at the altar, but they did.
Finally, I was moved by the spirit of Christian love from these dear Christian brothers and sisters. They were so appreciative of the fact that I was the pastor of their missionary and that I would take time to come to their church to preach for them. I was blessed by their joy and gladness. Although they have few worldly goods, they have more genuine joy than many Christians in America.
I came back from this trip aware of the fact that America doesn’t have a corner on God. He isn’t limited to us, and He is doing a great work in this world. I was blessed that I got to experience these great moments, and I am thankful that the Lord showed me some important truths.