An important part of my life is missions. Last week, I purchased airline ticket to return to Africa in March. My friends don’t understand why I feel compelled to go. I’m not sure I understand completely. I’m no one special, nor a Bible scholar. I prefer air conditioning, paved roads, pristine restaurants and modern restroom facilities. Why would I choose to travel to one of the poorest nations on earth where it is hot, dry, and dusty?
When I was first asked to go Niger by a member of my church, my first and second response was, “I love you, but I’m not going to Africa.” I mentally listed all the reason why I couldn’t go. But two years later, after reading Radical by David Platt, I started to reconsider. But what could we accomplish in seven days in Africa? Wouldn’t it be better to donate the $3000 to a reputable African charity? It all boiled down to this sad truth. I was afraid to go. I finally prayed, “If you want me to go to Africa, you’ll have to change me. I’m willing to be changed, but you’ll have to do it.” The next morning, my heart felt different. My fear had vanished. I wondered, “Has God changed me?” And I still wondered, “What can I accomplish in Africa?”
We prepared for months and learned to share the gospel in a format called From Creation to Christ. We practiced using simple words, easy to translate. Music can touch the heart and cross barriers, therefore, our team learned several songs in the language of Zarma.
Our first outing in Africa was to village A, where a small group of believers had formed. I don’t share the name of the village as I fear they might be attacked if the wrong sort of person read this blog. We travelled with hand chimes and performed. When we had finished our songs, the small group gathered and presented a song to us. The only musical instrument available to them was a water jug they used as a drum. One man picked up a tambourine from our basket. I’m sure angels in heaven accompanied them as I listened to their praise song. Our interpreter said, “There’s not an exact English translation but perhaps ‘Your name gives me hope, Jesus.’ is close.”
After the musical performance, we moved out of the 100 degree heat to a mud brick building. Dust moats floated through the rays of light that entered through a small square window. We sat on primitive wood benches, buckets and the ever useful water jug. There were perhaps twenty of us crowded in. It smelled of wood smoke, dirt and a faint hint of animals, similar to my own barn at home. The setting and people around me were Biblical. God had sent his son to be born in a place such as this, among the poorest of the poor. I sat in wonder and awe that I was there.
My heart raced as I worried I might be asked to speak. Instead, two of the Songhai men gave their testimony. We heard of loss, persecution, and stories of a changed lives. Tears of joy were on their faces. One man had lost his wife due to illness and he praised God that she was perhaps to first Songhai in heaven. His faith was so deep it astounded me. He shared these words. “You can never bring enough food and medicine. Our people have always suffered. But you can share the name of Jesus with everyone you meet. You can share the ‘bread of life’ so when our suffering is over, we have the hope of spending eternity with Jesus.”
As time neared for us to go, we gathered hands and prayed for each other aloud in our own language. The man sitting next to me flinched as I touched his hand. Muslim men and women do not worship God together, and a man would never touch a woman’s hand if she were not a family member. But he looked down and gently touched my hand. The sound of the mingled languages was heavenly and I felt God’s presence. After we prayed together, the man who had flinched, spoke with the men who had given their testimony. A loud cry of jubilation arose as Ibraham announced that Bashear had accepted Christ. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.
I often look at the picture of the small church family in Village A and pray for them. I shake my head when I remember I thought I was going to Africa to help them, when in fact, their testimony and faith change me. Some of the scales have been removed from the eyes of my heart, but not nearly enough. I am a stubborn child. That’s why I go. I want to share the name of Jesus, but what I crave is for God to continue to work on the condition of my heart.
The man in this video is Boubacar. He is one of the men who shared his testimony with us in that small brick building. It was an accident when I ran across this video earlier this week. http://s.imb.org/1580vuU