Thursday, October 24, 2013

For God so loved the world

Today I feel incredibly privileged to be a follower of this amazing God.  This God who created the universe without lifting a finger, who tilted the earth on her axis, who holds the stars in the palm of his hand, is the same God who provided a way of salvation for all humanity.  This great God fills all time and space...

and yet his love is so great that he knows the favorite color of every child in Africa.  This God so loved the world that he gave his only Son....

Thursday, October 17, 2013

If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink

Because of the generosity of my coworkers at U-Pack, I was able to bring 29 Waves for Water water filters with me to Burkina Faso.  We have begun passing them out to the families who the missionaries know, the families with the greatest need for clean water.  Twenty-nine water filters equals twenty nine million gallons of clean, purified water to replace the disease-infested, death-bringing water that the majority of the population here drinks.  I am overjoyed to be able to meet practical needs in such a way, to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus and follow the commandment that is so obvious in the verse, "I was thirsty and ye gave me drink" (Matthew 25:35). 

And yet I have to swallow a lump of sadness every time we give out a water filter, because I know that for every family we help, there are hundreds, thousands, who have yet to receive clean water.  Countless children who still ingest dangerous parasites every day in the water that they must drink to sustain their lives.  What sad irony. 

But Jesus reminds me that worse yet is the fact that there are millions here who do not know the Living Water.  They have never been introduced to the Sustainer God who holds creation in his hand.  He is the life-force, the River of Living Water who spoke humanity into existence and calls all nations to repentance. 

And He is the eternally clean water that they so desperately need. 

Yesterday we bumped along a winding dirt road an hour outside the city to deliver a water filter to a family who drinks from a lake that is home to about 200 crocodiles.  It is also the watering hole and swimming pool for all the local animals. We looked into the lake and saw the filth that these sweet babies drink every day, and then we showed them how the water filter works.  When the water came out of the filter, cool and refreshing and perfectly clear, the kids crowded underneath the get a drink. 

When they led us back to their house, the courtyard was littered with remnants of recent witchcraft offerings.  But we ignored these and gathered with the family under the warm African sunshine and we prayed for them.  We prayed to the God who longs for them to know how much he loves them, longs to wrap them in his arms and pour into them the knowledge of eternal salvation.  We pray to the God who whispers into their ears, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink" (John 7:37). 

Oh, Jesus, bring salvation to these people that I love so much...that you love so much more.  Nourish them with your Spirit.  Send someone to build a church here, with a baptistery full of water and the message of the purifying blood of Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Five Days in Niger

Niamey, Niger. Hands down the hottest place I have ever been in my life. The heat was absolutely swealtering, as if the sunshine is actually quite a bit closer to the earth here. But the people respond with their own warmth - all smiles and hugs, welcoming us with open arms.

We have one church in Niger, because the country is a little over 99% Muslim and so evangelism is strained.  We drove past three mosques to get to the building that serves both as the church and the pastor's home.  I have an overwhelming respect for these believers, who must feel completely isolated in their faith, tucked away in this crowded city of Islamic stronghold.  

We were as delighted to see the church members as they were to see us. They knew that we were coming to fellowship with them, to worship and teach and read Scripture. But what they did not know is that we came bearing 200,000 CFA - $400. Ken had told me that the church needed a new piano badly - not only because theirs was extremely old, but also because they were planning to finally, finally build a second church and would need two pianos. So I decided that would be my project: a new keyboard for these people who had won my heart in an instant.

We had evening services on Friday and Saturday evening.  Sunday morning dawned especially hot and promising to get worse. We were sweating by the time we got to the church building, after our  white-knuckled ride across the city. But church was beautiful! Worship to praise to worship, dance, music, and at some point the power cut out, nixing the fans and the sound alike, but no one slowed down or even seemed to notice.

Ken stood up and began to talk about the church in the book of Acts, who had neither drums nor piano nor sound system. This Niger church, he said, was doing a great job with whay they have, but their piano was fatiguĂ© - tired - and they needed a new one. They he raised his hand and showed a wad of carfully folded West African bills, and said, J'ai de l'argent pour un nouveau piano - I have the money for a new piano.

If anything was said after that, I didn't hear a word of it, for the church absolutely exploded into worship. I expected them to be happy, but I didn't expect the response to be of this magnitude. At first I thought it was cheers, but I looked around and realized that it was not. It was worship to the Provider-God. Because what I did not know was that this church had been praying for a new piano. They had saved as much money as they could - 60 CFA (a very impressive amount, in fact, for Niger is the poorest country in the world), but knew that a miracle of God was needed for the new piano. So they had been praying for quite a while.  And God, in his great wisdom, had provided for them in allowing me to be the answer to their prayers. Wow.

The worship got louder and louder and the smiles bigger until it turned into a dance of rejoicing. The women left their seats and streamed up to the front, dancing and clapping and circling the front of the church. If I thought I could stay outside of it I was mistaken, for a woman about my mother's age sporting a colorful headwrap pulled me in and squeezed me between two dancers. As she did, I glimpsed the piano player. He had been rather quiet and gentle all weekend, but now he was worshipping openly - bent at the waist, dancing in a circle, arms raised to heaven, and a smile so big I could see nothing but his teeth.

The suddenly it was too much for me to keep in.  Something inside of me erupted and I began to cry and laugh at the same time, following these women in a dance of rejoicing.  I looked around at this room so full of worship and I realized, I was made for this moment. Nothing that I possess, no paycheck that I have ever received, was worth more than that ten minutes of rejoicing.

When things calmed down, the pastor began to speak to the church in French, reminding them that God had heard their prayer, had answered their prayer. Then he turned and said they were going to pray for the missionaries in thanks for bringing this gift. But Ken and Gin shook their heads and pointed at me. The pastor's eyes got big with understanding and he said, "Eh!" and turned to explain to the church that the gift, in fact, was from the young missionary, Mademoiselle Donna. They all turned to me, raised their hands to heaven, and began to pray that God would bless me, that he would keep his hand on me, that he would give back to me what I had given to them. I tried to pray with them, but all I could do was weep. That prayer was the best gift that I could have received. What they gave me was much greater than what I had given them. What is $400? Not much. What is a room full of Spirit-filled Africans praying a blessing over you? Priceless.