(Highlights Of The Past Year series)
A couple weeks ago I got back from Africa. It was the hardest trip I’ve done – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Believe it or not, it was the first trip I’ve ever gotten sick on. My host and I miscommunicated several times, effecting the training schedule. We drove for hours, four men wedged in the back seat sitting shoulders sideways, windows down in 120o and dust blowing in. I got back to the US and was completely drained.
But it was a good trip. I could share about how many people came to the trainings and comments they made, but let me share a bit about four men I saw God move in during this trip. We pray for churches to start and people to become believers in hard to reach places and those are the “cool” things to share, but notice in Matthew 9:38 that Jesus says to pray for laborers. This has been my biggest prayer this year, shaping the trips we’re taking and how we’re making decisions – are we preparing qualified laborers who can train others?
We pulled up to our first training, surgically separating ourselves from each other as we climbed out of the backseat. Eugene came up to me and I forgot about trying to get my spine realigned again. I recognized his huge grin from last year when I was training in a different part of the country. He gave me a huge hug! “Pastor, it is so good to see you again!” Last year we talked one-on-one about how storying could fit in his church. “Let me tell you how the Lord has worked among the people of…” Eugene had changed his preaching to a story approach, inviting interaction and asking people to share the stories with other people before the next Sunday. Then in church they review the story, visitors ask questions and members of the church (not pastors!) stand to answer. “Pastor, the people are talking to Muslims about Jesus without fear!”
Last year I had the most incredible translator I’ve ever had anywhere. This month Obed was my translator again and basically became the fourth member of our training team. Like I mentioned, there were several miscommunications with our host about schedule issues, which most of the time we didn’t find out until we started speaking, so I’d have to say something like, “OK, Obed, we were supposed to have two more hours, but I was just told we need to be done in thirty minutes. Doing this with translation is going to kill us. You’ve seen me do this part several times. I need you to run with it.” OK, yes, I was taking advantage of the situation to see what Obed could do. I watched him float around to groups, answering questions, clarifying things, giving encouragement, people tracking with everything he said. We watched a man move from being a gifted translator to passionately teaching his countrymen.
On this trip, I took two young American men with me. Jack is moving to Africa in the future to live among a Muslim people group and has been doing storying discipleship with the youth group he pastors. Ben is going to an animist unreached people group in a couple years. This was the first time they had done storying training, so I gave them plenty of opportunity to lead different parts.
On the last night in country, we sat in our room. It had dropped to a chilly 97o and we had three fans blowing on us, which basically felt like standing in front of three hair dryers on high. We talked about an invitation from Eugene to come to a nearby Muslim country to do training. “Guys, I can’t do it then. Wish I knew a small team who could.” Then I sat back, closed my eyes, and listened to three young men – two Americans and an African who had met each other just ten days ago – talk about training church planters in a Muslim country later this year. Even the heat didn’t seem all that bad right then.