We had a beautiful, quiet Christmas with our new friends in Cavango.
My discipleship group of ten men ranging in age from 18 to 64 is a joy. These very bright men, living in an illiterate culture with no books, magazines, newspapers, bibles, paper, printers, etc, can hardly read portuguese (3rd or 4th grade level at best) and they’re spending two hours/day to get through one page of about 10 simple workbook-type questions and they’re absolutely loving it!!! They are learning the very basics of the Kingdom (we’re going through the book of John) and it’s all new to them. Remember when you first read Jesus’ words on your own outside of a church/religion setting?!
Seeing God’s words come alive in a seeker’s heart is always so very special, and anyone who loves Jesus and loves people could be leading these men. I don’t teach, but I encourage each that, in their time alone with God and His word, they will learn all that His Spirit would teach them that day (Jn 14:26, 16:13). When we get together, we each simply and honestly share what was especially significant to us in our time with our Father and then we pray for each other. What a blast to hear each week what our Father’s Spirit shares with these beautiful, simple, seeking hearts.
We had communion last week at our little, rural Cavango church. Bets made the bread and we contributed orange juice (nothing else was available out here). When on the unreached front lines, issues that cause division among American church-goers simply aren’t important here. We work with Jesus-lovers from many different denominations and countries and we simply don’t have the time or energy to argue or divide over minor issues (Lord’s supper, pre/mid/post trib rapture, tongues/gifts, baptism in the Holy Spirit, miraculous healing, predestination/free will, immersion/baptism, tithing, which bible translation, young/old earth, women’s roles, etc, etc). There are simply too many people to embrace, love, serve and teach to be concerned with the trivial (1Tim 1:1-7, Rom 14:1-13, Phil 1:15)…
People here don’t brush their teeth and, if they do, it is typically without toothpaste (impossible to afford). So many people develop dental abscesses and many of these abscesses kill. I’ve seen several people die this year from Ludwig’s Angina, a dental infection under the chin which obstructs one’s airway. Most adults have many severely deformed and missing teeth, especially in the front. Rarely do I work a clinic without pulling some badly diseased and painful teeth…
Bets’ english class is going well, with much enthusiasm for learning. I wish I shared her adult students’ enthusiasm for learning a new language!
We often have visitors knocking at our door before 6:00a. This culture rises before the sun and retires soon after sunset.
I was picked up and dropped off this month in our small MAF plane an hour from our house by our pilot, Brent, for our week of clinics in the interior. It was sure nice to not have a 10hr drive on the front and back end of our travel week. I was joined by Jolene, a delightful medical student from Canada, visiting Angola for three months prior to beginning residency.
The south of Angola is in a full-fledged cholera epidemic because of a 2-5 year drought (depending on the area) and very concentrated water sources. This month we flew into 100+ degrees temperatures in Shangalala (where we used to live) and found out that they’ve still had no rain this year (it’s the rainy season now all over Angola) and many in the region have contracted cholera, the dreaded diarrheal illness so aggressive that a person can die from dehydration in less than 24 hours (and this where health care access for many is more than a 12-24h walk). Hundreds of people have died (especially children) and in our week of travel we treated and prayed for many suffering from malaria and cholera, as well as many people with other illnesses.
I returned to see two kids in the Cavango clinic with cerebral malaria, virtually always fatal if untreated. Both arrived in comas with seizures and both responded beautifully to aggressive treatment and went home well after about a week. We also had four babies under two years old present with malaria and this caused me to wonder how many are out there without transportation to a clinic/hospital?
I always return home from my monthly trips into the Angolan interior full of passion, sadness, and desperation. Seeing neglected, forgotten, suffering human beings fires me up and I wonder, “Where is Jesus’ church?!”
We have a beautiful team of supporters and without them we couldn’t be embracing, serving and praying for so many. Our home church in Sunbury, Ohio also recently and sacrificially gave thousands of dollars to help serve particularly the sick and hurting in this region.
But… in Angola and around the world there are today MILLIONS of hurting, wounded and forgotten daughters, sons, grandkids, moms, dads, etc. In 2010, the U.S. sent out one missionary for every 1,700 church-going, professing christians. When I saw this recently, my heart broke. How His church has changed…
The early church touched so many people that it “turned the world upside down” in only a few years. Is this because all of Jesus’ apostles and so many of His disciples left home, family and country? Why did they do this? Because He told them to? Because the One they followed left everything for their sake? Because they wanted to tell those who hadn’t heard (everyone)? What has changed in the past 2000 years?
Perhaps the world would be turned upside down again if we increased the number of passionate U.S. missionaries. What if 17 (1%) to 34 (2%) of every 1700 christians left home to go to the broken and forgotten (and ALL of the other 98-99% were senders and supporters because they passionately cared for those lost, hurting and hungry)? This would have a tremendous impact on the people served and a radical impact on those in America witnessing so many forsake their lives for the benefit of those in need.
I’ve found late in my life, that it is in forsaking this life and going to serve those in the unreached places (going where others won’t) that one finds our Father’s perfect will and purpose. Why did it take me so long to go? Because my own health, comfort and security were more important to me than those lost and suffering! I wasted so much energy, passion and time on me while people hurt and died alone! Please understand that we are NOT obligated to go (nothing we do or don’t do ever increases our Father’s love for us), but rather we are invited to live our life like the Designer meant for it to be lived (for Him and for others). We are invited to participate in His work among those He so cherishes and is always drawing to Himself.
If you are uncertain at all of God’s will for you, PLEASE go! Please encourage and support others to go. It will cost you all you now hold dear, someone else will benefit, and you’ll never regret it, especially in 300 years when someone comes up to you and thanks you for loving them and playing a role in introducing them to Jesus. Please go to the corrupt and underdeveloped places and embrace, see, feel, smell… Why? Because we marvel at what Job encountered, but there are millions of Jobs suffering in the world today.
I believe that our Father’s Spirit has been screaming encouragement to His church for 2000 years (beginning with Jesus’ last words) to abide in Him, to abandon our lives for the sake of another, and to GO with Him to the hurting, the thirsty, the wounded, the broken, the abused, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned…
Go where? The majority of this world (like those in the villages near us) will go to sleep tonight hungry, sleeping on the ground, battling a preventable illness, grieving the loss of another son/daughter/brother/sister/mom/dad, having never seen a computer, movie or stereo, having never ridden in a car, and having never eaten three different meals in one day… and knowing nothing of the finished work of Jesus, the primary demonstration of our Father’s passionate love for them…
As we look at the new year ahead (our Father LOVES giving new beginnings), let’s each ask our Father to use us to make a humble impact in one (or more) forgotten, desperate, and broken life! Let’s ask Him to use us in such a way that, in a few years, we will be forgotten but Jesus will be remembered…
Will you join me today in taking a few hours with our Father to assess where (who, what, how…) we have been in 2013 and to develop a vision for where we want to go, what we want to do (how we want to do it), and who we want to be, in 2014?
Thank you for walking with us in 2013, for your interest (and patience) in reading long blog posts, and for your heart for those lost, hurting, and held captive to the things of this world!