My heart is heavy as we leave this place.
We have bandaged wounds, treated strange illnesses, and shown the love of Christ the best we could.
I have been privileged to work alongside young men and women of God as they give everything they have to give.
We have lived among the ill, slept under the stars, and awakened with the roosters day after day. But today, we travel home in our little airplane to Uganda, watching the elephants and giraffes as they run from the sound of our engine.
Although I can administer medication, there is little I can do to make a difference in their lives—unless I tell them about Jesus.
We restore health for a moment, but eternity stretches before us, inviting some to bliss, threatening others with torment forever.
In Matthew 28 we read,
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is known as the Great Commission, and it pertains to every single one of us, not a chosen few poor souls we refer to as missionaries.
I sat in church as a young man, when one of those missionaries spoke. He was retiring from the field after 35 years of faithful service to God in Africa. His health no longer allowed him to be in that harsh environment. He had buried his wife and two of his three children there—his wife and daughter had succumbed to disease, his son died in the jaws of a lion. He would much prefer living out his years near them, but he would not be able to do so.
“I would like to tell you a story about living in the wild.” He started. Everyone was intent on hearing some ‘edge-of-the-seat’ tale of adventure from this man who had become a living legend to them.
“When we arrived in Africa, we had to convince the people to trust us—they didn’t want to. That took three years, and the death of my son.” He paused, clearly moved after more than 30 years.
“But they finally came around. Once they did, we lived side by side for 15 years before the first person came to Christ. We waited another 5 years for the second.” He looked down as if studying his notes, but I had noticed when he went to the podium, he didn’t have any.
“When we had a need, they gave us the best they had. When they had a need, we did what we could, but we had little to offer them—except Jesus.” He stepped back from the podium and scanned the crowd of seven hundred people.
He was clearly deciding what to say next, when suddenly, resolve swept across his face. He stepped back to the podium. “We had very little, because you sent us nothing.” His voice broke as he spoke.
“They gave us all they had, but someone from this congregation sent us a box of tea bags that had only been used once.” He struggled with his emotions.
“Someone else sent a sweater that I wouldn’t have used for a doormat. But the most discouraging message we ever received was from your pastor. It said, ‘Would love to send money as your requested, but we are in the middle of our building fund, and I fear it would send the wrong message to our congregation.’” He broke into tears, and I remember literally grabbing the edge of my chair.
“The wrong message … to whom?” He could barely speak, but everyone heard. “You need to burn down that building,” he pointed to one nearby, “and send your money to where it will do some good for eternity … then—go. Go over there to help them. Show up. Get off your pews, and show up.” No one spoke, or moved, or coughed, or breathed as he took a moment to collect himself.
“Send your best as if you were sending it to Jesus Christ himself … because you are. You wouldn’t think of sending Him used tea bags—don’t consider anything but the best you have.”
He abruptly stood boldly erect, “And make it hurt. Send what you cannot possibly part with. Sell your TV, and provide the food for a thousand children. Sell your car and provide huts for five thousand.”
He looked directly at me and said, “God will require much of some of you,” he turned back to the congregation. “Those of you from whom He requires little—be concerned.”
My heart was pounding, but I wasn’t breathing. As he left the stage, there was no fanfare, no applause, as a shocked congregation realized they had let down this man—and God.
I don’t know how the service ended. I only know that I was the last one sitting in that church when everyone else was gone.
I will never forget that night. It has never made more sense than it does right now. Pray for Africa. Ask God what he wants you to give.
Ask Him—if He wants you to go.