(Highlights From The Past Year series)
Friday night baseball. Bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan’s team has already lost this game 9-3, but that doesn’t matter at the moment. You see, the coach has just looked over to Ryan at shortstop. “Ryan, take the mound…”
Ryan’s never pitched a game in his life. For the past few weeks he’s been practicing in the backyard, throwing to Brady and me. We’ve set up 2×4’s to keep him from stepping wide. We’ve practiced holding the ball, swinging his trail leg, and following through. And all the time we keep saying, “Ryan, you’re doing great, but none of it matters if you forget one thing – you have to hit the catcher’s glove. One thing, just remember one thing.”
Ryan starts walking to the mound and parents start asking me, “Does Ryan know how to pitch?” “We’ll see,” I said. I turn to the field and yell, “HEY RY! ONE THING!” He grins, looks to the catcher…
Really early Thursday morning I’ll board a plane, and 32 hours later walk across the border from Rwanda into Congo. This past week we almost canceled the trip.
You see, hard to reach places aren’t just ones with extremists or polytheistic theologies. Some places are just bad places. For thirty-five years there has been constant conflict in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Guerrilla groups hold villages in fear, raping women, killing men, abducting child soldiers. The UN has their second largest international peace keeping force in the world here (17,000 troops). The Congolese army treats the women not much differently than the rebels. Children depend on feeding centers for food in many villages. And Congo is statistically a “Christian” country.
Paul’s words in Romans 15:20 constantly echo in my mind. “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known.” During our nine days in DRC, that’s what we’ll be doing. Jesus isn’t unknown in this region, but he is not really known. Fear, power and domination, abuse, death, hopelessness…these are the realities that course through the villages, walk the hill paths, and envelope people’s daily lives.
We’ll be teaching pastors how to use storying in the villages. The younger members of our team will be sharing stories with children at feeding centers that the pastors can build on. Our ladies will be spending a couple days with women who have been victims of indescribable rape and abuse, share life stories, pray, and share stories from the Bible of women unloved by men but completely loved by God (and there are a lot in Scripture).
This trip is really about one thing. Doing what we can with our Congolese brothers and sisters to help fearful, hurting people begin to know a God they know about but don’t know.
Focusing on one thing can make a difference. Ryan’s pitching? He struck out his first batter.