Why Not Africa?

When I was about to graduate from St. Olaf College in 2002 (that sounds like so long ago), all I wanted to do was move to Uganda and work for FINCA, helping them with their micro-loan program. Instead, my friend Laura got the job. I was already over being disappointed though as I knew in my heart before the rejection letter came that I wasn’t going to get the job. After living and studying in Tanzania, I realized how valuable education truly is and I wanted nothing more than to help eradicate poverty and preventable diseases in less developing countries through improved education. But that wasn’t the only thing searing my heart.

One of the other things I realized soon after I had landed on Africa’s East coast, was that people there who believed in God and Jesus as their Lord and Savior, actually believed in God. They were unlike most Christians I knew at home in the U.S. These Christians knew what spiritual warfare was having had spells cast on them by witch doctors. They knew what it meant to trust God for their daily bread, as most were subsistence farmers living only on what they and their neighbors grew-they truly were dependent upon God for rain and sun (I think I’m still dependent upon God for sun, not rain so much). They knew the value of weekly coming together to learn more about God, to worship God, to offer the Church their first fruits (literally) and to encourage one another in their faith so much so that they would easily walk for an hour to get to church and then spend 3-4 hours together, even if their gathering place was simply a tree (and not an actual enclosed building with seats).

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They knew what it was to pray for the sick, care for those on the streets and take in the orphans (even, and perhaps especially, in a country where children’s’ parents were daily being taken by AIDS…at that time about 12.5 million AIDS orphans lived in Sub Saharan Africa alone). Churches there were growing because when the Christians would pray for the sick, they would get well, and when they prayed for the dead, they would be raised back to life, and when they prayed for the blind, the blind would see. They knew what it was to have joy and peace that surpasses all understanding in all of their circumstances. They were the ones starting clinics and hospitals and schools. When people became Christians, their communities began to look a lot like heaven…

So when I didn’t get that job with FINCA, I knew why. Because even though I loved my East African home and wanted nothing more than to return and live in a hut with little to no belongings, that I might have a chance to make a difference in a less developing country, my heart was broken for something else. I longed for the people I went to church with at home in Minnesota (or who by then had left the church) to experience the kind of Church and Life-giving, community-transforming, heaven-bringing Christianity that I got a taste of living in East Africa with some of what I would call the most well off people on the planet.

I would be lying if I said that I was excited about what my calling was (I distinctly remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents telling them what I knew I was called to, and crying; they were not happy tears…some people don’t want to be sent to Africa, I didn’t want to be sent to America!), and I would spend several years running from it. But I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that my heart breaks no less today than it did 13 years ago for people in my homeland to experience the kind of Church that i genuinely believe God longs for everyone to be a part of. Call me an idealist or crazy, but I think that that the Church really is still supposed to be the actual Body of Christ establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth today, and that Body is to be only a taste of what is yet to come…

What if that kind of Church actually existed in Minnesota and people here could get the same taste for heaven in their mouth like I did halfway around the world?

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