Africa wins again. These are words I have uttered numerous times over the last few weeks. South Africa provides the modern conveniences that I am accustomed to in the States, with a shadow lurking nearby of new cultures and different people groups. Every time I step out the door and into someone else’s world I am met with a different perspective and outlook even when the faces look similar. It is a strange place to live.
My work is different than a lot of people that are living overseas with the same goal as my team. I help develop stories and videos that will be used to inform those around the world about what is going on in the lives of the people in Africa. Our work is tedious but the reward is great.
The Father is breaking my heart for lostness further than I thought possible. Through the videos that I piece together, I have seen the faces of the lost. I have watched them clean their homes, wash their clothes, carry their babies, laugh, smile, weep, and pray to their gods. Often times as I watch these clips and I long to be in those places. I want to have dinner with those ladies, listen to the stories of the elders and play games in the dirt with the children. I desperately want to provide a hug where one is needed, and a listening ear to the stories of pain this world can bring. There is a longing to reach them and love them, and to share with them the hope that I have.
But I’m not physically reaching those people. I’m not in the remote parts of West Africa traveling from one village to another with the Word. I’m not in the regions of Tanzania hiking up to where none have been able to reach and investing. No, I’m in Johannesburg, South Africa, a country much like my own. Working a job much like one I would have in America. I am here, and some weeks that makes no sense to me. And then there are weeks that it does.
Outside of the daily nine to five, I am involved in various opportunities around the city of Joburg. I have been lucky enough to be involved in a class that teaches a group of women English downtown. On Wednesday nights some of our friends spend the evening going around town with an organization to deliver food to people on the streets.
Recently I have become involved in an after school program for kids who just need a little extra attention in their lives. I have found a wonderful church here that I have started to get plugged into. There have been incredible blessings of friendship through these avenues and even more opportunities on the horizon.
I have known several things about myself that have been amplified in my travels. My heart is for the lost to know the love of Christ. I want to love people unabandoned. I want to invest and leave an impact, not out of my own efforts, but through Him who dwells within me. I want to see those remote villages reached, and if one day the Lord leads me to be the one to make the hike, I will do so gladly.
I am however realizing that in my great efforts to remember those who seem to have been forgotten, I am forgetting those who I should have always remembered.
I see the little girl who lives next door to me on a daily basis. She plays near my yard, shares her stories with me, and invites me into her life. Am I praying for her like I pray for the face of the child in the village? I hand bread and soup to my new friend who is making his bed on the street tonight, have I lifted his name up to the Lord as I pray for the nations? I Skype, and text, and Facebook chat with those I love at home, am I begging the Father to reveal himself to them daily?
You see I have made the mistake that so many of us do so easily. I have been praying for “Samaria” while Jerusalem sits ready for harvest outside my front door. My prayers reach my God and He hears my cries for the lost, but my hands can reach my neighbors and yet I find them busy with other things.
Who of you can relate? Who has neglected their Jerusalem? Furthermore who is being called to a new Jerusalem? Surely I am not the only one.
It took me moving quite far away to realize that missions were right outside my front door. It was checking me out in the Wal-Mart line, cutting my hair at the local salon, and entering my Sunday school class every Sunday morning. I was not called overseas because there was no need at home. I was called here because I was simply willing to go. God wanted me here, but where does He want you?
I challenge you to be willing to go. Whether you go next door or you go 2000 miles away from all you know. You find your Jerusalem and you invest until your days are exhausted and you are begging for sleep. You serve until you have nothing left and Christ is the only strength that makes sense. You go. There is no question.
So Africa wins again. Not because we have tons of ants in our flat, and the internet is kind of unreliable, and our water only stays hot for 6 ½ minutes, but because it is winning my heart every day.
Everyday I love these people that the Lord has brought me to more and more. Everyday I am looking for another way to use my hands and not just my prayers. I long to go to bed exhausted and filled with the Spirit because that is the best way to end these very short days of life. South Africa has become my Jerusalem and I am so grateful for this journey.
Accepting an assignment like the one I am currently participating in is like asking the Father to stand you in front of a mirror for several months, discuss your pros and cons, and refuse to allow you to walk away from that mirror until you acknowledge them yourself. I'm 2 weeks in on a 4 ½ month journey and I’m ready to break the stupid mirror. Lord have mercy.
I stand by my belief that most people are not stupid. I honestly believe that the general population is fairly aware of themselves and those around us. We know our true intentions for acts of kindness. We aren’t dumb people, but we do love to play dumb, don’t we? We like to pretend to be ignorant about what is going on because somewhere inside of us we know if we were to acknowledge the problem we would have to actually feel uncomfortable and deal with it. oh the sins of apathy how they constantly persuade us. This life is all about seeking comfort for many, so ambiguity is an easy out.
We play this game with friends, family, coworkers, that person who you avoided eye contact with on the street. We even play this game with God. We pretend we don’t really know what He is telling us, or doing in our lives, because we know it is going to make us uncomfortable to obey.
I didn't like the idea of sacrificing comfort and what I wanted in order to move a very long way from home to be obedient. Don't get me wrong it sounded fun, but The adventure only lasts for so long. at which point the unfamiliar becomes home and you kin of freak out. It felt weird having to start over and make completely new friends. I was super nervous about living with someone I had never met before in a country I knew nothing about. All of these things I have faced in the last few weeks. And to think I almost missed out because I wouldn’t stop playing games.
You see, it was almost like Hide and Seek. God was counting and I was hiding. He would pretend He couldn’t find me, like you do with a young child, until the very last moment and then BOO. My secret spot had been compromised and I was tagged it. He and I played this game for many years. Sometimes I thought I could hide so well that maybe, just maybe, He wouldn’t find me. Or better yet, He would get so fed up with calling my name that He would just leave me be and let me keep my comfortable little hiding spot for the rest of my life in my "I don't deal with things" world.
Unfortunately, my God does not really play my games. He may humor me and let me run around like a fool, but eventually He sits me down and explains the rules yet again. So you can imagine how I feel now, after only a short time out of my hiding place, to be set in front of this holy mirror for Him to begin the painful process of refinement.
The Father has brought so many things to my attention in a very short amount of time. He has begun to carve out deep holes in my heart where bitterness, anger, jealousy, envy, lust, pride, and selfishness lie. I don’t like admitting that those are apart of me. I mean, seriously, if this is already happening on week 3 I’m a little nervous to see the rest as time goes.
Now when The Father gets a hold of you and decides that you will now be a vessel for Him, He begins to bring those characteristics to the surface so that you can deal with them. So gone is the idea of ambiguity or ignorance, there is no room for that in The Lords plan.
I wish I could say ignorance is bliss, and maybe for someone it may be. But at this time in my life ignorance is detrimental. On the field your faults are amplified and if you refuse to acknowledge them you’re not only hurting yourself but your team and those that are put in your path.
I don’t know that I had any great wise motivation or advice for writing the post except to admit that I’m dealing with lots of things. I’m learning more about myself than I may have wanted to know, and hearing the hard stuff is a challenge. My honest desires are being challenged daily. And as He builds me up I'm also torn down so that I may exemplify him in my actions. The mirror is big and glaring me in the face. I’m sure we all have our own mirrors in life; the question is will you be bold enough to take a gander at what is looking back at you and let the Lord perfect it?