Back in Angola, Culture, Lies, Fingers and Toes…

 

We have returned to Angola after five months full of interaction with so many beautiful friends and family. Many of the people we saw support our work among the globally forgotten rural Angolans, and we were enriched by every interaction, and enjoyed sharing about the people who benefit from the combined efforts of all of us.  So many prayed for us, and we know our Father listened to every word on our behalf and on the behalf of those we serve.  Many expressed admiration for what we do and said they could never do what we do, which is simply not true.  A few expressed a desire to join us in a significant way, either through finances, through a visit, or through relocating to Angola to join us.  My prayer, as we return, is for more Jesus-loving, people-loving laborers who would join us, either directly by relocating here with us or visiting, or indirectly through financial contributions, prayer, sharing with others about the work and the people’s needs, encouragement, etc.

 

We traveled much, to over 150 meetings, and we were able to describe our work and the fact that we, as fingers, simply cannot do what we do without wrists, elbows, legs and feet.  In the world’s perspective, only the laborer is worthy of honor and reward, but the body of Jesus is beautiful in that, in the Kingdom of our Father, all participants in the work (worker, sender, supporter, pray-er, encourager, etc) share equally in the reward that brings benefit to another. 

 

All credit for every work always goes to our Father, who is the maker and sustainer of every life. Consider the following: A man/woman sells a product or provides a service and is paid a wage, which is contributed to our work and is used to purchase an injectable medication (<$5) to kill the parasite causing cerebral malaria in a comatose three year old child.  The child survives and grows to adulthood and has eight children, five of whom survive. Each of these children have five children survive to adulthood and the same occurs in the next generation.  A small part of someone’s wage for work done in the US in 2019, completely unrelated to rural Angola, is made holy via a contribution and provides life for 156 human beings over the next 60-90 years!  And this is only one of the thousands who are helped through our ministry, who otherwise would have died without intervention.  Your contribution and our contribution (the elbow and the finger) allows our Father to touch and touch and touch, in a way that defies (my) imagination!  The Kingdom of our Father is so crazy unique and I hope more people who now know of our work can see that they can be a significant part in changing lives and generations.

 

Our work is beautiful not because of who we are, but because we are mud and spit in some crazy beautiful and capable hands (see previous post and recorded message), and because we are working where others won’t go.  You can go with us via contributions, visits, coming to live and work with us, praying for us, sending encouragement…  So many that we visited over these five months said they value our work, admire what we do, etc, but they don’t join us  I don’t know why.  Perhaps they are contributing/serving elsewhere, which is great, and perhaps they just needed to meet us to realize that they CAN make a huge difference in so many people’s lives through our work. 

 

Many issues are considered “biblical” and are simply American.  To think that we need a “calling” to leave our homes and go to a place in the world with great need is a lie, and one that keeps many in the church working a job that benefits them, going to church services, tithing, volunteering twice a month and thinking they are doing God’s will.  Jesus made His will clear by His life and His words.  He never said to get the best job you can, “stay planted” and serve me where you are.  He didn’t tell us to make the most of this life.  He never said that personal prosperity indicated His blessing or pleasure. He actually spoke about our inability to serve two masters…

 

Jesus told us to abandon our lives for His sake and for the sake of the hurting and confused.  Period. The messages in the church today are all about how we can have better lives.  And better, and better…  It’s so sad. We’ve been given what we’ve been given, not for us to have more, but to be distributed to someone who will benefit.  The blessing is that we get to participate with our Father in His work – loving those with needs.  Jesus didn’t have a place to lay His head.  Yet we, as His followers, think that we should live in luxury?  Where are Jesus people giving half their income away? Or more?  It’s not ours!  Why do we think we should keep half, let alone 90%?  The One we follow kept/saved nothing!  The tithe is an antiquated law that in no way applies to someone who has the insane privilege of walking and talking with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and calling Him “Father”.  We need enough to live simply (like the lily of the field or the birds of the air) and the rest MUST go to those who don’t have enough to live, to those who haven’t heard of their Father’s crazy affection for them, and to the wounded and confused who would benefit from a bit of help.

 

The church could again turn this world upside down, but are we willing?  A leper approached Jesus and said that He could heal him, if He was willing.  The same question applies to us.  As Jesus’ body on earth, “Are we willing?”

 

We have the incredible privilege to walk each day with our King, to serve those who have been shipwrecked, to be tired and hungry from serving those who are wounded, to mourn and weep with those who weep, and to hunger and thirst to see Him known by all for who He is.  He is beautiful beyond description and so many don’t know.

 

We got to interact with so many beautiful people over the five months and we are SO grateful for those of you who support our work here because you care for the “hungry, naked, thirsty and poor” in rural Angola.

 

We also witnessed the effects of many lies being propagated within the American church, some of which follow:

 

         “My emotional health must be my priority.”  I must take care of myself in order to care for others.  I heard many tell me that I must take it easy or I will burn out like others have, and do no one any good.  I think Jesus would say exactly the opposite…  that our food is the word of our Father, who tells us to go, to mourn, to hunger and to thirst for people to be right with Him, to serve, to give our lives for the sake of the naked, thirsty, hungry, imprisoned…  It’s never easy to work in the darkness and painful scars, depression, weeping and mourning will result, but in the Kingdom of God, the emotional, physical and spiritual health of others must always come before our own.  Our sustenance is our quiet and still moments with Him, where we can unburden and be filled.  Our joy will come one day when we bow before Him (perhaps with some emotional limps) and hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

         “Love is felt.”  1Cor 13 is our Father’s definition of love given to us by a man who saw risen Jesus, conversed with Him personally, and was murdered because He simply wouldn’t say that Jesus was dead.  Emotion and feeling are not Kingdom love.  Love is priority. The benefit of the beloved above our own.  Jesus is our model, as He left all His glory solely for our sake.  Love and compassion are not “felt”, they are motives (felt or not) for serving and for prioritizing another’s well-being…

 

         “The gospel is about my salvation.” Can we just throw this salvation word away? It is so misunderstood. In Jesus’ opinion, should my salvation be more important to me than rescuing, serving, and helping those hurting around me?  The “salvation message” is an embarrassing modern rendition of Jesus’ motive for coming to this earth.  He came to reconcile our relationship with Him and to reveal to us His Father’s heart and perspective.  Our relationship with Him was/is His priority and, once we know His wonderful favor and affection (restored relationship), He invites us to love like He does, and to participate in reconciling others to Him (mainly by serving and loving as He did/does), so they can also know Him and His affection for them, in all His magnificent beauty.  He is NOT a religion of rules (“Christianity”) and does not desire us to say a “sinner’s prayer” to avoid hell. He desires us to walk with the King, and to know His pleasure.

He also emphasized that death would not separate our union with Him, but His message wasn’t as much about eternal life as much as it was about Life.  Life in Him that can be known now… and forever.  Life focused on Him and not on our house, lawn, car, fun, wounds or anything about us, but on His crazy beautiful affection for us.  Life focused on others’ well-being above our own.  How do we find this?  He said HE is life.  He told us how to find life.  Meet with Him, alone, and unload our burdens on Him.  Chew on His words.  If our brother needs a coat, we give Him one.  If he is confused, we embrace and sit with him. Thirsty? Water. Wounded? Care.  All the while proclaiming, to anyone who will listen, the Kingdom of God, which centers completely on the King, and His love for mankind and His desire that man walk humbly with Him, as he was created to do.

 

         “Personal success/healing/well-being is God’s priority for me.”  So sadly false and believed by the majority in US churches, demonstrated by what a setback suffering is to people’s ability to believe in God’s goodness.  Personal success (comfort, ease, a pain-free life, etc) in the Kingdom of God is the first thing we must abandon, in order to remove distractions that prevent us from knowing Him intimately. Jesus would encourage us to get our eyes off of ourselves!  Success requires effort, ambition, time, etc and these resources can be used to serve ourselves or to serve others.  We can’t serve two masters…

 

         “If we disagree, we cannot walk in unity.” Wherever there is more than one honest person involved in making a decision, there will be disagreement.  Disagreement actually indicates honesty and integrity, while how we disagree reveals the degree of authority that we have given the spirit of God in our lives.  If we disagree with insecurity, offense and vitriol, we are self-absorbed, self-protective, self-defensive, and Jesus isn’t involved.  If we disagree with honor, respect, willingness to listen and even embrace someone who considers themselves our enemy, Jesus is present in the interaction and Kingdom seeds will be scattered.

 

         “Courage is living out our personal desires” Jesus indicated the contrary and we must choose to follow Him or follow our own affections, wisdom/will, or those of our culture.  Courage is actually denying our personal desires for a greater good.  Pursuing the fulfillment of our basic desires is what drives animals, not humans made in God’s image.  We were given the ability to discern what gives life and what destroys life, and choose accordingly, no matter how we feel.  We are monogamous, for example, not because it always feels good, but because stable, healthy family relationships are rich, and benefit the couple’s children.  Jesus and those in the early church were our examples of courage, serving and proclaiming that He was alive despite personal cost in the form of mockery, ridicule, physical isolation, imprisonment, etc. for treating people well and telling them that they can know God.  This message (all inclusive, but often feeling exclusive to those who desire independence from God) still offends today in many places, including in Angola, where authorities remain highly suspicious of our motives, refusing to believe that we are here to help, no strings.

 

         “Politics is the only real source of change.”  Jesus was apolitical, and He lived in a world as political as ours.  He didn’t however, take the bait and enter political discussions, but maintained a focus on the far more important issue of His kingdom.  Paul wrote his disciple, Timothy, and encouraged him to avoid fruitless discussions in order to maintain a kingdom focus.  Yet Jesus’ followers today are passionate about politics, because they are as enticed by the attitudes/perspectives of this world as are the unchurched.  When asked, we can respectfully dialogue and offer our views in an honoring way,  but our message must always focus on our Father and His Kingdom.  We are not of this world and Life is not found in political and societal change, but in intimacy with our King.  Change begins around us when we live lives of integrity (our life and words match), because no one does.

We preach climate change from our SUV and personal jet, we preach Jesus as our protector while we conceal carry.  We say we are not “materially-minded”, yet our clothes, cars, houses and gadgets are no different from those who reject our Father.  The church today is largely indistinguishable from the world, and our passions focus on politics, leisure, sports and Hollywood.  The world would take notice if we sold half of what we owned, threw away our TVs , paid no heed to sports, entertainment and other ridiculous, modern trash) and spent (all) that time dialoguing with our Father, relocating to where we could be most used (rather than where we want to live) and serving those with great need instead of going on protest marches (and feeling like we accomplished something).

How many people have to die? How many times do we need to hear before we go?  To seek out and serve those who have not?  Can we hear less and simply apply what we have heard?  Can we stop our me-focused “worship services” and conferences and “go” to those in darkness and pain (wherever that may be), and serve like the One we claim to follow?  Can we love and honor our enemies (or those who disagree and are offended by us), pointing to Jesus as the (only) real source of life…  Rather than invite our neighbors to church, might we skip a church service on Sunday morning and invite someone off the street to our home for the day?  And perhaps listen to their needs/hurts and “wash their feet”!

Living with Jesus is not about doing more, it’s about doing less, but surrendered to our Father and benefiting others…  It’s simple, though it’s sure not easy.  Some of the most godly people I know are African women, who know a few Jesus passages and apply them in all they do…

 

Well, I never know where I will go when I sit down to write.  We have returned from the richest culture in the world’s history, where there is virtually no interest in long-term missions (relocating to take what we have to those who lack).  It has been painful to return to a place so lacking the very basics of life (and experiencing perhaps the worst drought in 90 years), from a place that largely doesn’t care…

 

If you care and want to help, please contact us (see headings above), and you will make a real difference in many rural African people, cherished by our Father who will embrace them, heal them, feed them, and reveal Himself to them… through you…

 

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