We made trip to Shangalala last week (to measure and make lists for purchases) and gave a ride to a beautiful young Brazilian couple who are visiting to explore full-time ministry to the street kids of Luanda. We had a delightful conversation about their current ministry in the urban slums (favelas) of southern Brazil and their lives and heart for Jesus. We connected on various levels. It was a joy. It was nice to speak Brazilian portuguese again, as well. In our cross-cultural journey over the years, we have been so blessed in the people we have been able to work with and in the people God has brought across our path. As a father of teens and young adults, I’m reminded that the people you introduce to your kids can be equally as influential as you. I am so grateful that my Father has so helped me in my fathering and that His leading, instructing, and challenging our kids has been so clear in these past few years.
One of my most impressive experiences in this initial season in Angola was the morning staff meetings in Caluquembe. The whole hospital staff meets daily @ 7:30a, they sing a couple of songs, someone shares a biblical teaching for 15 minutes, and they discuss deaths and challenging cases, reviewing all admissions from the previous night. There is usually also a word from one of the two clinical directors of this 250+ bed facility in the middle of nowhere. Almost every day, during this word from one of the directors, they discuss what a privilege and honor it is to work in this hospital, doing such challenging work, serving those hurting. They consistently use the phrase, “grande trabalho” (great work, huge work) when discussing the great work ahead in the upcoming day. In this simple reminder, they keep the vision at the forefront. They remind every worker that why and how they work is as important as the work itself. They remind them of the high calling that is serving a hurting person. There are few things more important in leadership than keeping the vision fresh, renewed, and positive. It is our personal and corporate vision that steers our behavior, that motivates our work, that connects us to our sense of calling. What are you called to today? How can you renew your vision today? Are you leading your family, your work, your ministry with a clear and passionate vision? Are you communicating that vision frequently?
We still see the remnants of war all around us. We had a patient last week who lost his eye in a bomb explosion. We are visited by so many amputees who lost limbs in land mine explosions. In most of the country still, we mustn’t wander except on well-worn paths because the countryside is still peppered with land mines which still could detonate. We hear so many stories of how people moved to the “mata” or jungle for years because of the fighting. When they tell their history and how it relates to their current medical condition, we hear about their years in hiding. The lives of poverty and war that the Angolan people my age have led is beyond my imagination. Are they such a gracious, honoring, humble people because of their trials? I believe so, and yet why do I still resist the thought of facing painful, personal hardship or difficulty? I am reminded that if I desire more of a certain character trait, I must endure the necessary disciple (molding) to get there. I truly can be joyful in trial when I know that there is a real purpose behind the pain.
The kids here are so without toys and simple things to do. If anyone wants to send us some simple toys, we would love to distribute them. Frisbees, balls of various shapes and sizes are a couple of examples that would be worn out in no time. We have a friend in Brazil who loves street kids. This Brazilian couple… The kids here are so ripe to be loved and valued.
I’ve been counseling a young man for several months and have been so encouraged by his heart for Jesus. We go for a walk together once/week and he is always ready to share about his week and he is always full of questions, both theological and practical. He’s been having challenges in his relationship with a girl, he leads a small group and faces all of the joys and challenges that go with that, he has begun a regular, informal meeting with his parents and 3 brothers, all of whom have had exposure to Jesus without knowing Him, he teaches Karate (he’s a multi-level black belt – whatever that means) and shares about his challenges with parents and students. Angolan young men seeking to walk with God face the same challenges as young men anywhere: learning to work with integrity, learning about women, learning to relate, learning to lead, learning to live beliefs, learning to handle conflict, change, trial…
One of my morning routes takes me along the side of a small mountain and almost daily there is meeting of christians up the mountain a bit in a beautiful, somewhat secluded area overlooking the city. I’ve been able to have multiple conversations with some of the neatest young people who have a passionate desire to follow Jesus. When they learned that I had walked with Jesus for many years, they asked questions and brought friends over to ask questions. What a delight to meet humble, wise young people who value the experience of many mistakes and who have the desire to learn from elders. Several times I also stop by to hear a person dominating the meeting, screaming and shouting and “telling” the listeners what they “should” be doing. Their prayers are dramatic, loud declarations. These ask no questions and reek of self-confidence and self-assurance. They have the answers and don’t need to learn because they “know” the bible. The contrast is striking. I’ve been studying God’s word for so many years and am still looking for the passage that encourages us to scream and yell and tell people of God’s wrath and anger and threaten them with punishment. In my search, I keep bumping into passages about humility, meekness, love, gentleness, serving…
We move tomorrow to Shangalala. We have 13 people coming to help the five of us. Eighteen people will tackle this house in a weekend. How blessed are we?! These are 13 very busy people, driving 4-5 hr, spending their weekend, laboring in 90+ degree heat, sleeping on the floor… I want to love like that!