Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Making a Difference

As a youth pastor for the last 10 years there are many times I have wondered if I am making a difference. I have often wondered if teens were actually getting it or were my just words going into the air. I went through this many times in America as I worked with youth and every time it clicked I would go to my office with a little fist pump and say yes!
As we moved to a new country and culture I began to wonder again are they getting it or will they ever? Plus on top of it, I am learning a new language and wondering if I am even communicating well or at all. We have preached, taught, demonstrated, and lived it out, but many times I wondered if they understood anything at all? The suffering and all we gave up, was it worth it?
In the sermon series I recently did, we talked about God’s roles for marriage. We looked at the consequence of sin, which we now fight against, and what it has done to marriage. We talked about raising kids and discipling kids in a constructive way. A few people in the congregation would nod their heads and agree but I was not sure if it was clicking. Then God did what he has done so many times in my life, he gave me a glimpse into the future. I walked over to our pastor’s house in the evening, later than I usually would. As I walked up to the house I noticed a large group of adults watching a war movie at a neighboring house. Then I looked at Djibi’s house and it was that moment all over again when I say “Yes!” All his kids and the neighbor kids are watching a Bible movie on the computer we had brought back for him. We had recently brought these Creole Bible movies back from Gambia. That is not even the best part! There was Djibi sitting inside his living room next to his wife reading the Bible with her and discussing it with her. I was overwhelmed with joy. He got it and was living it out! It was a beautiful picture knowing his testimony. Before giving his life to the Lord, he was filled with anger and hatred for everyone including his wife. The smiles on their faces and the joy as they sat and studied together made these last two years worth it. To top it off as if that was not enough, that coming Sunday Karen and I sat in front of the church and let them ask questions. They asked amazing questions about loving and staying with their unbelieving spouses, how to discipline their children, as well as loving and not ignoring their children. Their questions let us know they got it and were hungry for more. One church leader ended this time with more of a statement then question. He said if we live this way and treat our kids this way the village will pick on us and them. I looked at him and said I know because it happens to our family and children. We are living it with you and at times suffering it with you. I left with the challenge is it worth it? You want a different life and better life for your families and children, so you have to answer the question is it worth it? You may not see the change today, but as you grow older you will see it in kids and God willing, your grand-kids. Our Pastor says to this challenge amen and it is worth it. I walked away from church that morning on top of the world. They got it we had begun to accomplish what we came to do, it has been worth it. I do not know what they will all choose to do, but I know we have faithfully taught and lived it out and now it is up to them to apply it. All the trials, sicknesses, rashes, heat, and frustration were worth it.

Answering questions about marriage and family
We say we must consider the cost to follow Christ and sometimes the cost is tough. Before we came to Africa I had an idea of this, but as I have lived here the cost has become something deeper. I understand much better what Paul wrote about many times. For us it has been worth it and we would not trade any of it in for anything. I look forward to the years to come and watching this church grow and apply what they understand. I hope someday many years after our time here is done, that my family will have a opportunity to return and see the 2nd and 3rd generation Christians and they difference their parents sacrifice made. This may never happen but it is a dream. I love these (Yes!) moments whether it was a teen or young adult heading into the world sold out and willing to buck the normal to follow God or a forty year old Africa man willing to buck his whole culture to follow God. My prayer is we all will continue to consider the cost and say yes to Christ no matter what the cost may mean. That is the most important thing in life saying yes to our Father and Creator, nothing else matters. If we can teach our children this like our friends in Catel, think of the difference it will make for the kingdom. I strive everyday to be obedient (with a joyful heart), to run the race God put in front of me, so that one day I may also hear well done my good and faithful servant. If my children learn nothing else from our time in West Africa, I pray it will be this one lesson that has taken me some many years to learn.
Written by Mike