Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The proud missionary

It's not every day that someone looks you right in the eye and says:
"You're a very proud man - you know that?"

Here I am, teaching in the African desert, and one of my colleagues comes straight out with it. You're proud. Pretty direct. My reply?
"Yup - I've got all kinds of pride issues. But you need to tell me why you think I'm proud."

So the young teacher explained how pride had surfaced in me. How I'd spoken unwisely to another teacher, my body language, my tone of voice... The list was fair and convicting. 

As far as I can see, I will wrestle with pride issues as long as there is breath in my lungs.

A friend once said that he thought that he was a decent bloke until he got married. Then he began to realise how selfish he was. Being a missionary has had a similar effect on me: I thought I was doing okay being a Christian, until I became a missionary in Kenya. 

For me, I never grew up dreaming of being a missionary in Africa - never. People do, but I didn't. I dreamed of playing for Manchester United or living next to Disneyland. Simple stuff.

Sounds dramatic, but God led me here.

The very title 'missionary' was reserved in my mind for very pious people who are probably quite boring - not blessed with the 'fun gene'. Serious folk on some other plane of existence to the rest of us (okay, so, I got that wrong!!). Nevertheless, I'm a missionary (I do often think of those missionaries back home, who do not have the title "missionary", who carry on telling people about Jesus, largely unknown and never to get recognition in this life. They keep going because they love Jesus. They love people).

And for those who REALLY know me - yup, I still do stupid stuff. I can come across as proud and harsh. Sorry if you've ever been on the receiving end!

But God's using me anyway. And God's changing me, because He loves me too much to leave me as I am.

The bit in the Bible that comes to mind is from Romans 12v3:

"Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves..."

This post might be a step in the right direction then...

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I know a guy...

When did you last meet someone inspirational? Last week? Last month? Can't remember?

There must be a ton of inspirational people in my home country: I guess I'm not that good at looking (or are they in short supply?).

However, it hit me the other day: I've been in Africa for over four months and have been swamped by inspirational people. This is a tribute to SOME of those people. Once you've met them, you never forget them. They wouldn't want me to write their names. They're not those kind of people.

I know a guy who lives in a remote village where the bullets fly, the snakes are lethal and every day is a struggle. His wife and four young children are at risk, no question about that. Spend a little time with this man and you can see that he loves his kids as much as any father. He explained to me that whilst it is hard to risk your own life to share the good news about Jesus, it is considerably harder to put your own family in the firing-line next to you. He feels the weight of that decision every day. He and his wife know God called them to that place, whatever the cost. Every day they could press the eject button and plant their kids into a 'safe' neighbourhood, but Christ will always come first for them. They have to share the hope they have found, with the destitute and those who gave up on hope years ago.

I know a young lady who screams as loud as anyone about large bugs with wings, lightning-fast spiders, cockroaches in the bathroom and an endless variety of the slimy and the venomous. But she came to Africa anyway, choosing to live off the grid, far from hospitals, in the thick of 'insect alley'. Why? Because she wasn't going to let her fears get in the way of what God wanted her to do.  

I know a Muslim lady who heard about Christ as a young girl and realised that it was the truth. Knowing that becoming a Christian would mean that her family would throw her out and perhaps even kill her, she converted anyway. As a result, she was pursued by an angry mob of youths, wanting to murder her. Desperately she ran. The last few moments of a life? Blind with fear, she stumbled into the house of a kind Christian couple, whilst the thugs surrounded the house. As she quivered in a heap on the floor, the man of the house went to his entrance, and suggested that if anyone wanted to see her, they would have to get past him first. The crowd evaporated. Today, this girl has grown to be the mother of several wonderful children and is a pastor's wife.

I know a couple who have invested their whole life into one community, helping them to have a Bible written in their own language: the words of eternal life in their own tongue. The couple's whole life became focused in on this single purpose - to supply a Bible for a forgotten people group. Only last month, they found themselves stuck overnight in a swamp in bandit country and days later were shot at from point blank range. Miraculously, they were unharmed. They have been dodging death for decades!

I know a man who has inspired ALL these people (and me) - Jesus Christ. They love him. They follow him. In the words of Jesus:  (Matthew 16)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?