I am glad Bart is on his sabbatical on Mt. Ararat or Disneyworld or wherever, because I may say some things about him I would hate for him to hear. Better to speak behind his back.
A few years ago he mentioned needing someone to minister to a UUPG his church had identified next to his UUPG called the Bayot in the Casamance region of Southern Senegal.
I was looking for something like this and I said I would go. I hung out with Bart for a week and had a great time.
Here’s the part I am not sure I have ever told Dr. Barber. I spent much of that week trying to concoct a reasonable excuse to say no to this ministry. I think Bart genuinely loves being among the Bayot. I have marveled at his interactions with them. He is like a fish IN water.
Picture me as that fish flopping around on the bank desperately seeking water realizing he is not where he belongs. I do not speak the language and this type of evangelism has never been my wheelhouse. I feel genuine fear every time my plane leaves for Senegal and relief when I head back to the USA. I am a 61-year-old whose insides were splayed a few months ago and over 4 days I walked a marathon according to my Fitbit in temps that exceeded 100 at times.
This ministry is not a natural fit for me. My gills are gasping.
You hardcore cessationists are gonna be lost here but I sense a call to this that supersedes my inadequacy and my status as ministry misfit. I am on my eighth trip among the Essing because God said, “Go over and help them.”
Where did we ever get the idea that God only calls us to minister where we are a perfect fit?
- Moses was God’s spokesman and claimed not to speak well.
- Gideon was hiding when God called him a mighty warrior.
- Saul the Pharisee was God’s choice as apostle to the Gentiles.
It was not true in biblical times and it has not been true in history. The modern idea that God fits us to places in which we are well suited so we can always be happy and successful in ministry has more linkage to the prosperity gospel than to our Scriptures.
I sit here in the dark, in a place with no electricity or running water, where the language is strange, the habits are stranger, and the strangest thing is the tall white guy they call Koulandiso walking the paths telling stories about Zezus.
Why am I here? It isn’t because some personality profile said I was a fit. In every possible way I am not. Perhaps it is because I was the only one who said yes. Not a lot of competition for this job. But the real reason?
God wants me here.
God loves these people, these wonderful Essing people, and he has moved in my heart to be one to come and tell. Whether I wanted to or not.
My point is not to paint myself a hero. My frequently pathetic attitude prevents that.
I would just like to ask a question.
Where did we get the idea that ministry should be fun, easy, comfortable, and fit our personalities?
There is little in the Bible that buttresses that idea. God calls us to hard work in hard places where hardened hearts make hard work harder.
Greetings from Dioher.
Yes, I love these people and I long to see churches here, but right now I long for home.
And sometimes I hate Bart Barber.