Friday, February 9, 2018

This time, I'm preaching to myself

The future is uncertain.  I am surprised by how often we tend to remind ourselves that we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.  The best that any of us can do is to read the signs and try to interpret what will come to pass in the days, months, and years to come.  At times, we look around, we read the signs, and the outlook seems pretty bleak.  When reading the signs uncovers the threat of war, injustice, suffering, political insecurity, environmental destruction, etc. we stand together and say, "The future is uncertain."  In this way, I believe that we are expressing our hope; our hope that things may yet turn out ok.

As Christians, I believe that we pronounce these words believing that God will intervene.  Yes, things may look bad, but God is alive and hears us when we call.  Our hearts may ache, but there is a future in which they will be restored in Christ Jesus.  The way seems blocked, but the Spirit is leading through each tomorrow.  As I look around me from my Central African vantage point, it is clear that the future is uncertain.  Our needs are through the roof, stability in the region seems to be hanging by a thread, and we are often isolated in our ministry.  In spite of this, we are not without hope for a future in which the Kingdom of God advances from day to day.  God is moving.  People are being touched, challenged, and changed by the Gospel.

It was in part to this sentiment, felt by his followers, that led Jesus to proclaim,
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
Jesus was leaving and the disciples had a big job to do.  How would they carry on without their master?  What if nobody believed in their message?  What if they could not produce the signs and wonders that the people were accustomed to seeing in Jesus?  What if they failed?

The past is less uncertain, or not really uncertain at all.  We have proof of God's faithfulness, abondant love, and awesome power.  So, it is in times like these, where I keep thinking about my uncertain future, that I find myself looking to the past.  The Lord has provided and will provide.  The Lord has moved in mighty ways, and will continue to do so.  We have seen the Lord build up a team for ministry and another team will be formed for tomorrow.

Lord, remind us of who you are and reassure us of who you will be.  Let your Kingdom come!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

5 Years In Congo

Today is the 5th Anniversary of arriving in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In honor of our anniversary, I’ve asked the kids a few questions:

What do you like most about Congo?
Macy: I like my school; I like speaking two languages, the singing and dancing in church and the bright, beautiful fabric that women wear.
Connor: I like that I have friends. I like church because of the singing. I like that people can be helpful.

What are some of your favorite memories?
Macy: My favorite memories include learning French, being baptized and making all kinds of new friends.
Connor: My favorite memory is going to school for the first time and meeting my best friend Agneau. I was so nervous, but he helped me so much. We’ve been best friends since then. My other favorite memory is the first time I ate a fish eyeball. It tasted good.

When we are away from Congo, what do you miss most?
Macy: When we go to the United States, I miss the singing and dancing in Congo. I miss not being able to walk barefoot outside. I miss our 4 dogs.
Connor: I miss our dogs and my friends.

What are some of your favorite words in French?
Macy: coquillage (seashell), mouche (fly), beurre (butter) and chou chou (a term of endearment i.e. darling)
Connor: bonjour (hello), je t’aime (I love you) and ami (friend)

What is your favorite Congolese food?
Macy: fish
Connor: fish and chicken

This has been an adventure for our family and we wouldn’t trade any of the joys or trials. As I think about 5 years ago today, stepping off our plane and taking in the sights of our new home, we had no idea what to expect. From our first night sleeping on mattresses on the floor under mosquito nets and relying heavily on our church members here for buying food and learning new customs to learning how to take bucket baths, drive on pot-hole filled muddy roads, dealing with inconsistent electricity and days without water, it’s been a lesson in humility and relying on the Lord and the community around us. Today, we live in a home with solar panels and a generator and have a well that provides unlimited water. We feel spoiled! We’ve watched children grow into teens, youth grow into adults and pastors trained and ordained. It’s where we call home. We love Congo and her people. We love the hospitality and commitment to community and helping your neighbor. We love the singing and dancing and vibrant worship. We’ve come to call our Nazarene church members family. Unfortunately, on the other side of that coin, we do miss being close to our families and the way we celebrate certain holidays in the US. We’ve not enjoyed getting malaria or hassled by police. But, through it all, we’ve been stretched, learned more about God and seen Him move in ways that can only explain His love for His creation.

We pray the Lord continues to use us, mold us and watch over us through the years to come! It’s been an honor and a privilege serving God in Africa! 
Our first Sunday, meeting many new friends!

Our first ice cream cones...that made us all sick. We learned our lesson on street ice cream!

Macy and Macy: In February Macy (left) turns 5. 

So blessed for serve God in Africa these last 5 years!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Finding Your Peace

I think about peace differently than I used to. Before moving to Congo, peace was about finding time in the busy hustle and bustle of life to spend time with family and friends.  Peace was about not being so preoccupied with life that I couldn't enjoy it.  Peace also had a bit to do with contentment and realizing that in Christ, not consumerism, I'd have all that I need.  Having lived in Congo for just under five years now, peace has a different meaning.  For people here, peace is an absence of war and violence.  Peace is not having to frantically sell everything you own to pay a hospital bill so that a family member can receive life-saving care.  Peace is not being afraid of your government and what will happen if you speak too loudly when you express your displeasure with your leaders. 

Even though peace means different things to different people, the truth remains that Christ alone can bring true peace.  In this time of uncertainty or business, worry or restlessness, we are all called to come to Christ as he calls us and proclaims, "you will find rest for your souls." (Mt. 11:29).  Upon visiting a school this weak, one young man proclaimed, "I need peace so that I can go to school." This is true in a place where insecurity causes schools to close for long periods at a time.  This is true in a place where families could never hope to send all their children to school.  For this young man, Christ's peace allows him to have an education.  In what ways do you need the peace (rest) of Christ this advent season?   

Greetings from the village of Kafubu, DR Congo.