Many of my friends, colleagues and church members had made me look like a champion for the decision I took some 8 months ago. They often give me this impression that I was doing something quite extra-ordinary for God, and in reality, I sometimes felt so too. There were times when I felt I was really doing a lot, sacrificing my comfort and many privileges to be in a country where nobody seems to understand what I am doing, having to learn new languages and culture so I will be able to communicate the love of God, somehow to a people who don’t seem to be looking for Him. Volunteering for one year as a missionary felt like a big deal and I had sometimes felt that somehow, I was impressing God. Not until I came in contact with reality.
Secretly, there were times when I had really wished the months went faster and August 2013 came so I could go back home, but most of the time, I had felt I was giving my best, doing all I could, using every opportunity available to me to get people to at least hear about Jesus. I had learnt French and was already teaching computer classes in French, I had begun learning Arabic for communication, I had deliberately joined a basketball team where I had opportunity to meet with young people very often and on an informal level, my colleagues and I were going out of our way to invite people to our house just so we could establish relationships with them and get talking and so that they could see something about God in the way we live and think. There were times we got really exhausted and stretched, and at such times it’s easy to feel you’re doing God a favour, but you only need to raise your head and look across the street to get that feeling vanish in a moment.
Walking on the street daily, I see men wrapped in turbans and women hidden in lafai’s trying to at least keep away from the extreme heat on the edge of the Sahel. Having the Sahara desert as a next door neighbour is still a lot better than living in the middle of it anyway. But I see these people journey to and fro at different times, men on camels and women on donkeys, living this way for generations and some of them never having someone close to them who knew anything about Jesus think less of telling them anything about Him. It came as a shocker to me when I was told that just in the next major town on the Sudanese border, there is a tribe of about 500,000 among who there are not more than 9 Christians, and there is presently no single person working among them who’s aim is to tell them about Jesus.
After two months of being here, teaching computer classes three days a week, going to the basketball pitch another three days a week, making frantic efforts to make friends with lots of people, and being as open as possible, I have had two relationships built to the point of having a platform to discuss Jesus subtly, even then with so much wisdom and calculated timing. If it goes at this pace, how long until those numbers will get covered up? I spoke with someone who said he fasted for 8 days, praying for one person who had already heard about Jesus but needed to make up his mind. Do the maths, how many years will we need to fast to see a whole community transformed and turned to Jesus?
It doesn’t cease to amaze me that coca-cola has penetrated all these places, and yet 3 in every 10 persons on earth have heard absolutely nothing about the Name you and I are so proud of. It’s easy to read these things and assume that the writers are exaggerating, but living out here, I can have a faint idea of how the heart of Jesus still bleeds as He sits in heaven, seeing how all of us have so narrowed and cheapened His Grace and have converted God into our errand master whose only job is to provide our every heart’s desire, protect us, give us a good life here on earth and reserve us a place in heaven. Seeing and experiencing the realities out here, I no longer feel that my giving one year as a volunteer missionary is in anyway something I should feel impressed about.
With a few refugee camps not too far away from where I live, I see as UN World Food Programme workers labour to get food to these refugees. Some of them virtually live in the bush and under harsh conditions. They do it because the UN pays well. So many people will gladly accept the offer to go to any country, irrespective of the climate or even security conditions, provided they are being attached to the embassy. It is seen as a great privilege to be a diplomat. But leaving our comfort behind so we can be an opportunity for someone to see or hear about Jesus is seen as a sacrifice. Praying for unreached peoples and for those working among them is something many cannot just get themselves to do, and once-a-while sending of a donation to a missionary may just be a way of clearing our consciences so we can convince God that we are involved in spreading the Gospel. I think God is really proud of us!
Maybe stepping out has made me more critical. Maybe it has made me more uncomfortable with the way the church has placed her priorities. Maybe it’s making me say some things that could throw me out of favour with many. But on the other hand, maybe it has given me a better experience of how God feels for the unsaved and how He feels about His church which has obviously decided to do the exact opposite of “Go”. Maybe it has kindled a fire in me that might change the entire course of my life. You never know what stepping out for God could to your life, you just will never know until you do. I now understand better the words of David Livingstone – “If a commission by an earthly king is considered a privilege, how then can a commission by The Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
“There are only three options: Go, Send or Disobey.” – John Piper