What Took You So Long?
One of my pure joys is when students set out on frontier mission trips into parts of East Africa. Places that take days of travel in diminishing forms of transportation, from buses, to the back of a dump truck or a donkey-pulled cart. One of our focus regions the last few years is in a place called Pokot. Imagine camping in the middle of the Arizona desert, add in some elephants and hyenas passing by the campfire each night, a day’s walk to electricity with enough mosquitos to carry your sleeping bag away at night. A local pastor we work with told a story to our students the first night around the fire a few years back, it honestly may be why we keep having students jumping at the chance to go back.
He found a grazing herder’s village and began to talk with them. He sat under a tree with several gathered around him, sharing the gospel. When he finished, one of the elder men in the group asked, “so this is an old story?” The Pastor responded, “yes, centuries and centuries old, many generations.” With a puzzled look, the elder herdsman sat quietly for a moment and then asked, “If you have known as long as you have known, why are you just now coming with this news to us?”
People are more eager to listen than we are ready to share.
I don’t know how to say this softly or use good Christian-ese. I also don’t mean to offend you, but people are going to hell. Today. What are we waiting for? To train our students, to make sure they’re comfortable and have every verse memorized to recite the plan of salvation under pressure? I don’t mean to push us, but then again, I do. You may be thinking, “America doesn’t have traveling herdsman tribes in the middle of nowhere Africa.” Very true, it also doesn’t take us several days of travel in a donkey cart to get there either! I’d invite you to join us in the African bush, but we’ll need to come to your campus, too! We cannot disciple what we don’t first lead to the feet of Jesus and most people don’t know they’re dying, at least the ones we focus on in this age group.
This past week, I met an agnostic who worked for the United Nations. We were both sitting in the immigration hall hoping to renew our work visas. He grew up a missionary kid, studied at some prestigious university, wanted to change the world, but had watched his parents give “false hope” to so many. “False hope?”, I asked, “explain that please?” He went on to describe the great children’s story of some man dying for you to live, but everyone his parents told still went home hungry or jobless or had a natural disaster destroy their entire world. Continuing, he said, “I realized I can help people much better if Jesus isn’t involved in the process. So, maybe somewhere out there, there’s a god type figure that cheers for us all. I’m an Agnostic just in case, that and to honor my late mother.” I nodded my head, searching for something to say…nothing! And then one of the greatest movie lines popped into my head, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!” He chuckled, I continued, “well, I’ve got hope for you then. If you haven’t closed the door, I hope you find him, I know he won’t stop looking for you.” His name was called, he thanked me and disappeared. I wish I had a few minutes with him. I don’t have illusions that we might have prayed the prayer of salvation in the Kenyan Immigration Offices, then again, we might have. Point is, I didn’t ride an elephant to immigration in downtown Nairobi that morning, I used an Uber.
He was ready to hear, I was ready to share.
I’m counting on the Holy Spirit to take it from here.