I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

zambian sunset

Perhaps I should apologize for the Toto lyrics in the title.  If you’re anything like me, all you have to do is read those words and then the song is playing in your mind for the next several hours.  Perhaps some words from Habakkuk will help:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. ~ Habakkuk 2:14

Those words have become one of my favorite verses of the Bible—it is the end game, it is what we as Christians are (should be) pining for…  When Jesus returns, his kingdom will be established forever.  We shall see a glorified heavens and earth, through the perfect eyes of a glorified body.  And the bright shining doxa of the Lamb will illuminate every nanometer of space.

Glorious.  And the whole earth will be filled with that knowledge.  What an inexpressibly wonderful day it will be!

This past Saturday I returned from my second year in a row of teaching at the International Bible College of Zambia.  It was a 19-day trip, 13 with tennis shoes on the ground in Zambia itself.  Last year was not only my first time there, but my first time out of the states period.  I came back in a good shock-and-awe at my experience.

This year when I arrived, I noticed several things about the way it felt.  First, from the moment we landed at the airport to our arrival at the Bible College, I soaked it all in.  Even though I knew it had been a year since I last laid eyes on the place, it in no way seemed like a year.  It felt like just last week.  Second, it felt right.  I love my home, my church, my family, and my dog, but a piece of me also felt like I belonged there.  If home is where the heart is, then Zambia has become a home away from home.  I don’t see myself leaving my church anytime soon; I think I have plenty more work to do here, but if that day comes, then I could easily see myself spending a few years in a cottage in the Zambian bush working at the college.

And because of this “normalcy” in my experience, I felt certain that when I returned it was not going to leave me with the same emotional impact.  (I tend to have the emotional swings of a rock, mind you.)  At first, it didn’t…

But then something happened—I went shopping at Wal-Mart.

My refrigerator and cupboards were bare, so I did what I do to fill them: hit up the place with everyday low prices and yellow smiling face.  As I walked through the aisles filling my cart with food, I found myself fighting back the urge to cry.  When I made it to my car, I let the tears flow. smiley_face_crying

My main thought being, “We have so much and we do so little with it.”

I know we debate about how many people are truly Southern Baptist church members, but no matter what number you go with the results are roughly the same.  Through the Cooperative Program, the average Southern Baptist gives approximately $20-$30 to foreign missions each year, and of course part of that gets lost in the bureaucracy of the machine.

Let that number sink in… $20 or $30 per person each year to foreign missions.

Basically when it comes to our giving, we look at God and say, “Hey, here are two large Pizza Hut pizzas.  Hope you enjoy them!”  And then we’re done for the next 365 days.  I’m afraid we sometimes look at the big number… $325,000,000 (appx), and we pat ourselves on the back and say, “My, how generous and awesome we are!”  But then you do the math… you want sausage or pepperoni on that?

Part of me fears that as the church culture in America as a whole, we are going to one day find ourselves standing before Jesus, with big ol’ smiles on our faces, eagerly anticipating the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” but instead we will notice our Lord looking at us with forlorn eyes just before saying, “Look at what I gave you.  Think of the hungry you could have fed, the naked you could have clothed, the sick you could have healed, the illiterate you could have taught to read, the orphans you could have adopted, the enslaved you could have freed, and the lost you could have reached.  And all you did was build monuments to yourselves with steeples reaching towards the sky and dens of idols in your homes.  Away from me, I never knew you.”

If the average Southern Baptist would simply forgo eating out two meals a year, and instead consume a piece of bread with some butter while reminding himself such a meal is better than what a lot of people will be eating that night, and then take the money he saved and dedicate it to missions, we would double our foreign missions giving in a year.  DOUBLE.

Imagine what we could do if we were willing to make real sacrifices

 

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    “If the average Southern Baptist would simply forgo eating out two meals a year, and instead consume a piece of bread with some butter while reminding himself such a meal is better than what a lot of people will be eating that night, and then take the money he saved and dedicate it to missions, we would double our foreign missions giving in a year.”

    it is good to eat ‘like the poor’ from time to time, so that we KNOW

    when we KNOW, it is harder to walk away from the hungry in this world and do nothing

  2. Dave Miller says

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. My life is so easy now. Hardships come, but I live in a nice home, take home a nice paycheck, drive a nice (2003) car.

    Where, exactly, is my sacrifice?

    And, as I told you by email, you put that song in my brain for a hour or so, and I will never forgive you for that.

  3. Zack Stepp says

    “Perhaps I should apologize for the Toto lyrics in the title.”

    I resentfully accept your apology. I say “resentfully” because that song has been in my head since about 9:00 a.m.

  4. says

    “Imagine what we could do if we were willing to make real sacrifices…”

    …like going?

    (Apropos song for the title, by the way, secular as it is.)

  5. says

    I must say there is nothing wrong with having “Africa” stuck in your head, or a number of other Toto songs. Then again I am biased in that his parents were/are like a third set of grandparents to me.

    As far as the topic of the OP, song aside, while I have never served on/in the missions field, I am blessed to have known friends who have. And indeed one of my previous pastors was a strong supporter of missions stressing, “Some can go, many can give, all can pray.” Unfortunately far too many of the universal “Church” in America is oblivious to the plight of Christians and the state of the missions field around the world. They see blurbs on the news about Christians being killed, but they fail to comprehend that missionaries are often right in the middle of all the chaos. Even 10 dollars a month, which for most Americans is nothing, could mean a lot to Christians and missionaries overseas. May God open the eyes of us “comfortable” American Christians, and help us realize that there is A LOT we can do, even if we “start” small.

    • says

      “Unfortunately far too many of the universal “Church” in America is oblivious to the plight of Christians and the state of the missions field around the world.”

      You’re absolutely right, svmuschany.

      As an example, I just got an update letter from our friends near Syria a couple of days ago. Their oldest son is in the States to finish High School and is active in our church. He’s in youth with my oldest son and daughter. The family has had to move out of Syria because they aren’t Syrians, but they still manage to go in and encourage the brothers and sisters in Damascus. Some of the Syrians have even been able to get through the checkpoints to attend church conferences across the border, but some have been killed doing so. They even have a special aspect of their ministry set up to comfort those who have lost family members in the violence. Myself and others in our church have worked alongside many of these Syrian brothers and sisters overseas and know them well. It’s not that they are particularly persecuted, although there has been some of that. It’s simply that their country is ravaged by war. We have no idea how small many of our issues are by comparison.

  6. says

    Perhaps if we would take the time to do the things we never have, we might find what we’ve been looking for is right here, waiting for us to be the men at work for the Kingdom. That would be a beautiful day.

    After all, following Christ is more than a feeling, but if we know what love is, we will want to show others.

    Thanks Mike, you’re the inspiration for the day.